First impressions are important.
Todd Graham’s first impression of James Morrison? “I
nicknamed him ‘Tank’,” said the first year ASU head coach.
“He brings it downhill. I’ve been impressed with him.”
It’s been hard not to be impressed with Morrison during
spring football practice. The 5-foot-11, 213-pound
tailback is running with a purpose.
This is Morrison’s last chance, last opportunity to get
noticed heading into what will be his senior season.
“I felt like this year, with the new coaching staff…the
way I worked hard the past few years I knew that got
around to them,” he said. “They had high hopes for me.”
Morrison arrived at ASU four years ago as a walk-on from
Phoenix St. Mary’s High School. However, it wasn’t until
2010 when he received his first handoff, rushing 18 times
for 66 yards.
Last season, while he appeared in nine games, Morrison saw
his numbers decrease (11 carries, 59 yards). He did
though score his first career touchdown in a homecoming
win against Colorado.
Through it all, Morrison never wavered in his commitment
to his team or his teammates.
“There’s always light at the end of the tunnel,” he
explained. “At the end of the day, you can only worry
about what you can control; and that’s working out,
keeping your grades up and coming out here and practicing
“I wasn’t in a good position but I couldn’t just give up
on practice and give up on school and just stop working
out. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Now, with Graham and his staff in place, Morrison is
hoping his patience will pay off finally.
“One of the things (running backs coach Larry Porter) said
was that the past doesn’t matter. He even mentioned it
doesn’t take three, four or even two years to make it,”
Morrison said. “He
mentioned he put somebody in the draft off one good year.
Hearing that, that kind of motivated me as well to come
out here and work hard.”
With Cameron Marshall and Kyle Middlebrooks out this
spring with injuries, Morrison has been splitting first
team reps with Deantre Lewis.
Graham has singled out Morrison on more than one occasion
including after a recent scrimmage when Morrison scored
twice and blocked a punt.
“I’m just trying to take advantage of everything I can do
to get on the field,” he said of his special teams work.
That day was especially important for Morrison because it
was his father’s birthday. “I really wanted to give him
the best birthday present I could.” Morrison’s father
passed away in 2002. “I know he’s looking down on me so I
just try to make him proud any way I can.”
Morrison knows the Sun Devils backfield is a crowded one,
especially when Scottsdale Saguaro high standout D.J.
and heralded junior college transfer Marion Grice arrive
in the fall; yet, he has a good feeling about his senior
“Mainly because of the offense fits my style of play.
That’s the style I like to play.”
Morrison has made a good impression so far.