Running back Alfred Morris rushed for 1,186 yards and scored nine TDs during his senior season at FAU. (Photo Courtesy of Ralph Notaro/ Owl Pix)
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Running back Alfred Morris left FAU as the Owls' all-time leading rusher, but it was a Senior Bowl performance where he didn't even carry the ball once that likely prompted Washington to select him in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.
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When Alfred Morris arrived for fill-in duty at the 2012 Senior Bowl, his running backs coach Bobby Turner asked if he was a fullback.
Morris politely told the coach, no – which nearly caused Morris to be sent home in favor of a true fullback.
He quickly told the coach that even though he considered himself a featured ball carrier, he'd be happy to play fullback if that's what was needed.
Morris stuck around as a fullback. He didn't carry the ball during the game, but afterward he heard someone calling his name. He turned to see the head coach of his team, and current Washington Redskins' head coach, Mike Shanahan.
“He said 'You had a heck of a game,' ” Morris recalled.
Morris responded by saying that he didn't even carry the ball, which prompted Shanahan to say, “Nonetheless, you played a great game.”
Fast forward three months to Saturday, when Morris found himself to be so anxious watching the final rounds of the NFL Draft tick away that he had to keep walking outside to get away from the television.
He was sitting outside his house shortly before 4 p.m. when the phone resting in his lap started to vibrate. Morris didn't recognize the 703 area code that popped onto his screen. He realized the wait might be over.
Morris answered the phone and heard a familiar voice on the other end – Mike Shanahan.
“He said, 'Welcome to the Redskins,'” Morris said. “It's exciting.”
Washington selected Morris with the third pick of the sixth round (173 overall). The Redskins are getting a running back who owns nearly every important FAU rushing record, including career yards (3,529) and career rushing touchdowns (27).
Despite only using Morris as a fullback at the Senior Bowl, the Redskins drafted Morris to carry the ball – a decision reinforced by a phone call by Turner, Washington's running backs coach, and the same coach who nearly sent Morris home from the Senior Bowl.
“You are not a fullback, you are a running back. That's what we are bringing you in to do – run the ball,” Morris said Turner told him on Saturday.
An afterthought heading into the Spring of 2009, Morris took over the role as the featured ball carrier after injuries sidelined players at the top of the depth chart. Morris never relinquished the top spot.
Morris may be walking into a similarly open situation in Washington, where Roy Helu led the team with 640 yards and three other ball carriers gained at least 200 yards apiece.
“All I need is an opportunity,” Morris said.
After rushing for 1,392 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns during that sophomore season, Morris' totals dipped to 928 yards and seven scores the following year while running behind an inexperienced offensive line.
As a senior, Morris was the lone bright spot on a dismal offensive team, rushing for 1,186 yards and nine scores.
He is the third former FAU player to be drafted by the NFL. Quarterback Rusty Smith was a sixth round selection by Tennessee in 2010. Arizona selected Rob Housler in the third round of last year's draft. Both players are still with those teams.