The Wolverine

January 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 68 of 75

JANUARY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 69 BY JOHN BORTON J amie Morris used to run to daylight behind a mam- moth wall of humanity for Bo Schembechler 's Wolverines. He's no longer moving the chains, but he's off the chain as a radio host in Ann Arbor. "The M Zone" hits the WTKA (AM 1050) airwaves daily, Morris and co-host Mar- cus Ray regularly bringing the heat when it comes to U-M athletics, especially football. They invite a host of former Wolverines into the fold, bringing a player 's perspec- tive to the local radio scene. "Now, I'm doing my pas- sion," Morris assured. "I'm do- ing something I always wanted to do, but was afraid to do." Fear isn't a word gener- ally associated with Morris, who defied all odds as a 5-6, 149-pound Michigan tail- back behind quarterback Jim Harbaugh in the mid-1980s. Schem- bechler initially questioned his own sanity regarding the use of the di- minutive tailback. From very early on, Morris knew it was meant to be. One of four highly athletic broth- ers out of Southern Pines, N.C. — including former New York Giants running back Joe Morris — Jamie wound up playing his high school football in Massachusetts. At the end of every November, he received a reminder of where he wanted to be someday — right in the heart of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. "ABC carried the Michigan-Ohio State game," Morris recalled. "I fell in love with the helmets. It was good versus evil in my head, you know what I'm saying?" Many know, but actually getting to be a part of it is another matter. Morris' early break came when big brother Joe, who attended Syracuse, played for Bear Bryant in the East- West Shrine Game. Schembechler served as an assistant in that one, and the elder Morris found occasion for a quick plug, as they say in radio. "Joe went and told Bo, 'You know my brother, Jamie, who is probably going to be the best player of the four of us, loves the University of Michi- gan,'" Morris recalled. Morris was only a high school fresh- man at the time, but Schembechler didn't forget. He obtained film of the aspiring college tailback, sent U-M as- sistant Bob Thornbladh out to investi- gate after a couple of years and wound up offering a scholarship. It's safe to say Schembechler did not extend the offer figuring he'd land the tailback that would become Michigan's all-time leading rusher by the end of his career. "It was like a dream come true for me," Morris said. "I'm told it was the last scholarship given out that year, but I didn't care. It was awesome." Schembechler 's comments at the time were typically gruff and chal- lenging, designed to motivate: I don't know if I can take you. Have you seen my fullback? Have you seen my running backs, how big they are? Morris responded just like Schembechler would have drawn it up. "When he gave me an op- portunity, I said I'd play any- where," Morris recalled. "That was the one thing I needed — the opportunity. My brother Joe always told me: 'You can do anything you want, once you get the opportunity.'" T h a t ' s j u s t w h a t l i t t l e brother did. It took Morris all of three games to crack the Michigan starting lineup his freshman season. Give an assist to tail- back Gerald White, who'd put his arm through a plate glass window and couldn't go, Morris recalled with a laugh. "They ran out of running backs, so they gave me an op- portunity," Morris said. He never looked back, start- ing on a journey that eventually carried him to 4,392 rushing yards, a Michigan record at the time. The first start came against Wis- consin, a school that wooed Morris heavily, warning him he'd get lost in the shuffle at Michigan. The Badgers' pitch proved one more challenge Morris subsequently stiff-armed. "I remember Bo saying, 'I can't be- lieve I'm going to start a 5-6 tailback,'" Morris said, laughing. "You've got to show him. I'm going to prove it to him. Let's just say this — I wasn't always falling forward when I got hit. There were some big men out there. "Those hits were incredible. I'd never been hit like that before. I was sore, but I survived. I remember my mother telling me stuff like, 'If you don't get up every time I see you tackled, I'm going to come through that TV.' That was always in the back of my mind." The Wolverines beat Wisconsin that day, 20-14, and Morris was literally off and running. He recalled feeling like he'd finally established himself in spring football months later, after   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Diminutive Running Back Jamie Morris Delivers A Daily Dose Of Michigan During his four years in Ann Arbor, Morris gained 6,201 all- purpose yards — a school record that still stands — and scored 28 touchdowns. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS

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