Thursday, May 08, 2014
From Scott Dochterman's "Morris looks for NFL opportunity"
May 7, 2014
Iowa linebacker James Morris (right) knocks the ball loose from Nebraska quarterback Ron Kellogg III (12) during the second half of their game at Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, in Lincoln, Neb. The fumble was recovered by Iowa defensive lineman Louis Trinca-Pasat. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG)
IOWA CITY — James Morris’ on-field accolades at Iowa will earn him an NFL opportunity this weekend. But more than his statistics, it’s his intangibles that will entice an NFL team to offer the former Iowa linebacker a chance of a lifetime.
“All it takes is one team to like him,” said Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout for Ourlads Scouting Services. “You talk to him and you see how smart he is, a lot of teams are really impressed with his intelligence and his instincts on the field.”
Morris is one of several Iowa players vying for a chance at the NFL, which has its draft today through Saturday. Most analysts consider Morris, a former star at Solon and a second-team all-Big Ten linebacker last year, a mid-round pick. Shonka lists Morris as a fifth- or sixth-round selection.
No one questions Morris’ toughness, leadership or his technique. He stands 6 feet and weighs 241 pounds so his body type is comparable to most inside linebackers. But what also stands out for Morris is his intellect. He was named a first-team academic All-American the College Sports Information Directors of America and a National Scholar-Athlete by the National Football Foundation. He carries a 3.84 grade-point-average and will graduate next week.
When you add up 400 career tackles, eight sacks last year, his academic prowess and his leadership, that’s a solid foundation for any organization.
“I feel like I’m a really good football player,” Morris said. “So I think I’ll be able to contribute on the field in a variety of ways, whether that’s special teams or the starting lineup or whatever kind of package there is. Off the field I’m somebody you don’t have to worry about getting in trouble. I feel like I have pretty high character.”
Morris started 42 games at Iowa, mostly at middle linebacker. He may adjust roles depending on what team drafts him along with its scheme.
“Ideally a 3-4 team would like him on the inside,” Shonka said. “I don’t know if he’s got enough mass to be the middle linebacker in a 4-3 in the NFL. But certainly if he plays in those shade-under fronts, and he plays in the 3-4 where he’d be covered up, he’ll be waiting at the path for people. He’s real instinctive and smart and he’ll play on all special teams. Coaches want a guy who can learn quickly and he certainly can do that.
“He’s going to make a team, I’m convinced of that.”