The Wolverine

January 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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70 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2017   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? piling up 573 yards as a freshman. At spring's end, though, he discov- ered nobody had made it. "You go in to see where you stand," he recalled. "I'm hoping to hear, 'You're the starter.' I went through three spring balls and never heard that man tell me I was the starter. It just kept the fire burning in me." It burned in a head-to-head battle with Notre Dame running back Al- len Pinkett the following year, with Morris out-rushing the ND standout, 119-89, in the Wolverines' 20-12, sea- son-opening win. It burned through- out a 10-1-1 1985 campaign, in which Morris bolted away for 1,030 yards. It burned perhaps hottest of all in Columbus, on Nov. 22, 1986, days after Harbaugh guaranteed the Wol- verines would win at Ohio State. Morris stood well established by then, on his way to his second of three 1,000-yard campaigns. But this was personal. Good versus evil, remember? "It was surreal," Morris recalled. "I've never had that many people hate me. You saw it everywhere. It was crazy, in that way." The Buckeyes were running the Chicago Bears' Super Bowl champi- onship-style defense, but were vul- nerable through the air. Harbaugh stood ready to take advantage, but required some help. "We knew we could pass on Ohio State," Morris said. "Jimmy was hav- ing an incredible year. We just had to get them to respect the run, and that was the key." The Buckeyes didn't respect much of anything early. White exited with a hy- perextended knee, and the Wolverines fell behind 14-3, leaving the Michigan- hating horde howling its approval and mocking Harbaugh's brashness. When White departed, Michigan ditched the wishbone and went to the I formation, fullback Robert Perryman and Morris getting the challenge from running backs coach Tirrel Burton. "Bob and I looked at each other and gave ourselves a high five, and I said, 'Let's get this done,'" Morris recalled. "It wasn't just me. It was Bob Perryman, the offensive line. We started running draw plays. Jim Har- baugh was hot, and he was making it happen. It was opening up the run- ning game, clearly." Down 14-6 at the half, Schem- bechler proved neither angry nor worried, Morris recalled. "He was like, 'Coach [Jerry] Han- lon has seen enough,'" Morris said. "'Here's what we're going to do. We're going to go to two tight ends and start running on them. We can beat them up front.' "I'm like, wow! And Bo looks at me and says, 'And your little ass better get it going.' I'm like, yeah, baby! I'm fired up, and he's fired up. We knew we could beat that team." It wasn't easy, by any means. Morris scored on a four-yard run to cap an 83-yard drive to start the second half, and scored again following an Ohio State field goal to put the Wolverines up for the first time on the day, 19-17. Morris could have hosted a talk show back then. He didn't mind chirping on the field, even to an All- American Buckeye linebacker. "I was just running to daylight," Morris recalled. "I was just running for my life. I remember telling Chris Spielman, 'You know what, you're making a lot of tackles — but it's fur- ther and further down field!'" The Wolverines eventually held on, winning 26-24 when OSU placekicker Matt Frantz slid a last-second field goal attempt wide. Harbaugh made good on his promise, thanks in no small measure to Morris' 210 rushing yards. Morris saved his best for last, going for 1,703 rushing yards as a senior in 1987, before heading off to a three- year NFL career with the Washington Redskins, followed by one season in the Canadian Football League. He returned to work in Michigan's athletic department from 1998-2010, but he may have found his niche be- hind the microphone. "I didn't think I'd be good at it," Morris said. "Not that I'm good at it now, but you know what? I've learned a lot doing it. "It's a rough business. It's a rugged business. Not everyone likes you. Ev- erybody fakes to like you, and sure, you get a little leg up because you played ball here, but you know what? You've got to know what you're talk- ing about, and it better be entertaining. "Sometimes, we're almost yelling at the top of our lungs at each other, not agreeing on anything. But if you listen hard enough, we're really try- ing to tell you this is how it is." Morris earned the right, the hard way, to stand tall and tell it how it is. ❏ Michigan Accomplishments: Lettered and started at tailback for four years, 1984-87 … Rushed for 4,392 yards, a Michigan record at the time … Morris' rush- ing total is now fourth on the all-time U-M list, and third among running backs … Averaged 5.4 yards per carry, with 18 career 100-yard games. Professional Accomplishments: Played three seasons in the NFL with the Washington Redskins, 1988-90 … Enjoyed his best year in 1998, covering 437 yards on 126 carries … Posted two 100-yard rushing games in the NFL … Per- formed a single season for the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the CFL in 1991, rushing for 591 yards and posting 263 receiving yards … Worked in Michigan's athletic department from 1998-2010 in development … Presently co-hosts an afternoon radio show in Ann Arbor on WTKA. Michigan Memory: "I got a chance to play in the Big Ten, the premier confer- ence in college football. I got to play for the greatest coach, in my opinion, in the history of college football. He was an innovator of the game. "He felt the same way about Woody Hayes. I got the chance to become a friend of Bo Schembechler. That's the coolest thing in the world for me. To do that, wow. I'll carry that for the rest of my life." Family: Has a 13-year-old daughter, Kendall. The Jamie Morris File Morris led U-M in rushing all four seasons from 1984-88 and now co-hosts an after- noon sports radio talk show with fellow former Wolverine star Marcus Ray. PHOTO JAMIE MORRIS

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