In his first NFL game, former Owls and current Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris scored the first two touchdowns by an FAU alumni in school history.
Despite receiving high praise across the country, Morris remains as humble in Washington as he was in Boca. According to the official Redskins blog, Morris still drives the silver 1991 Mazda 626 he purchased as a junior at FAU.
“It has some sentimental value to it now,” Morris said. “It just keeps me grounded, where I came from, and all the hard work for me to get to this point. So that’s what helps me.”
Morris even wants to keep the vehicle in the family long after his NFL days are over.
“One day, my kids are going to drive that car,” Morris said. “If it breaks down, I’m gettin’ it fixed. That’s just how I am.”
The UP caught up with Morris to discuss what it’s been like to be an NFL starter.
Q: You were initially projected to go as high as the third round in the draft. What was your reaction when you finally found out you were drafted in the sixth round by the Redskins?
A: It was a sigh of relief because I thought the call was never going to come. After that, it was just like a surreal experience because I’m actually a fan of the Redskins. So, for them to draft me was huge. When I first got there it was like the ultimate fan experience.
Q: How much more fulfilling was it for you to get drafted from a small program like FAU, one that few outside of South Florida have heard of?
A: It was like a reward for all the hard work I put in. All the sacrifices I made, all the things it took for me to even get recognized. It was huge, especially even though I had a pretty bad year my last year going 1-11. I just want to go represent for those who are undrafted, or those who come from small schools, to let them know if you’ve got the talent and work hard and bust your butt, the rest will take care of itself.
Q: Going into your senior season at FAU, I know you wanted to make it to a bowl game but instead things couldn’t have gone worse. What did last year’s 1-11 season teach you?
A: It taught me perseverance and how to overcome adversity. There was so many times when I could have threw a fit or bad mouthed my team, but I never did. I just stayed positive, and I kept pushing through. Me being drafted was the result of that.
Q:You had a big watch party at your house for the NFL Draft. How did your family feel when they heard your name get called?
A: They were ecstatic. They were going crazy. They were so happy for me and so proud of me.
Q: You always post status on Facebook and tweets on Twitter about your faith. Explain to me how important has God been to your career success?
A: If not for God I wouldn’t be who I am today. I would have never been to FAU. I would have never been with the Washington Redskins. I wouldn’t be starting. He’s just helped me along my journey and not allowed me to quit on myself. That was my foundation that I stood on — God, through all the hard times. If it wasn’t for God I probably would have gave up, but I’m glad I didn’t.
Q: Your name is getting blown up on TV and the internet. Fantasy gurus are picking you as their sleeper. How does that make you feel?
A: I mean, I’m use to it. I’ve always been under the radar and an underdog. I know what I’m capable of. I know the type of player I am. I’m just going to make the most of my opportunity and continue working hard to get better and better. I don’t need to prove anything. I already know what I can do. All the other people are shocked at what I’m doing, but I’m not.
Q: When you came back for FAU’s first home game this year, did you talk to the players on the sideline?
A: I did briefly on the sideline, but I didn’t get in their way during the game, but I talked to a lot of them in the locker room and after the game. They were telling me they were proud of me and stuff, so I was thankful for that.
Q: You’re the all-time record holder in a number of different Owls categories. What’s your favorite memory at FAU?
A: Probably just coach [Howard] Schnellenberger, funny moments that I had with him and him saying “Ready!” with his voice.
Q: I’m sure there’s been a ton, but if you had to choose one, what’s the funniest moment you had with former FAU head coach Schnellenberger?
A: (laughs) Some of the guys teased me about this. Instead of calling me Alfred, he called me Ralph. He kind of had a fit because I didn’t reply back to him. I didn’t know he was talking to me. Him calling me Ralph was definitely one of the funniest moments.
Q: I know you’re in season now and your schedule is hectic, but whenever you get the chance are you going to come back down and watch more FAU games?
A: Yeah, if I get a chance I’ll definitely be there in the blink of an eye.
Q: You have a two-time Super Bowl champion as your leader. What’s it been like having coach Mike Shanahan as your coach in Washington?
A: He’s a great coach. They [the coaching staff] help so many running backs become great. I’m just thankful they’re my coaches. It’s going to be huge. I’m definitely all in and definitely learning so much already to become a better back. For coach Shanahan to draft me in the sixth round says a lot because it’s the same thing he did with Terrell Davis and the other backs [in the sixth round], and what he was able to do with them. I know he kind of sees me in the same light, so I’m definitely honored that he picked me up.
Q: Coming out of the tunnel in week one for your first NFL start, what were the emotions going through your head?
A: Excitement. I was like, “man, I’m finally here.” It’s the highest level you can be on, and I’m not just doing this for me, I’m doing this for my family and all those who helped me get here, my school and most importantly God, for blessing me with the gift to be able to go out there and perform. I was excited and just ready to go out there and have some fun. That’s what I do all the time — have fun.
Q: What was the competition like in training camp and preseason with the other running backs to earn your starting spot?
A: It was high. There’s a lot of good backs, any one of them could be the starter. It was a lot of pressure but I didn’t let the pressure get to me. There was a lot of pressure to be perfect and not make mistakes, to give the coaches what they wanted so you can make the roster. I just kept having fun and went into it thinking no matter what happens I know if i give it my all, I’ll be able to sleep at night. The competition was high, but I made it, so I thank God for that.
Q: Describe your new quarterback for me. You’ve gotten to spend a good amount of time with RGIII the last couple of months, what kind of a guy is Robert Griffin III on and off the field?
A: He’s goofy. He’s a goofball. He’s a clown. He cracks jokes. He’s real cool, down to earth. I’m just glad that he’s my quarterback. He’s such a tremendous player, a dual threat. Just for him to be the way he is — you would think a player of his caliber at the collegiate level would be kind of stuck up, but he’s really not. He enjoys what he does, so he makes you want to enjoy what you do that much more.
Q: Your bruising style of running is transitioning well to the pro game. You displayed a lot of strength on your first career touchdown, a red zone run. How did that first touchdown with the Redskins feel?
A: It felt great man (laughs). We were on the goal line and I just refused to get tackled and I refused to be denied of that touchdown.
Q: On your second touchdown you threw up the Owl Fingers, what’s the reason for that?
A: Just to show my pride. Some people were asking “what is that?” A lot of people don’t like where they came from, but I’m glad I went to FAU. I’m glad I’m an alumni of Florida Atlantic University.
Q: Is that going to be your signature touchdown celebration?
A: Yeah, my home run swing leads into the Owl. I take my home run swing, then I do the Owl sign, so that’s going to be my celebration.
Q: What’s been the biggest difference so far between college life and pro life now that you’ve had a taste of both?
A: Football is my job now. It’s not like you’re a full time student or a full time athlete. You’re only doing one of them, so you can allocate your time to focus on just football. In college, it was split between football and academics, which was definitely tough. It helped you with your time management.
Q: What are the perks of life as a pro football player compared to your time as a student athlete at FAU?
A: We get everything you can think of on the plane. The craziest one so far has been ice cream. I’ve never been on a flight that I’ve had ice cream. So, now every time I fly I always ask for ice cream. I was a huge ice cream fan so that was cool.
Q: What’s been the best advice you’ve gotten now that you’re a pro?
A: There’s been so much, but I guess from my [running backs] coach [Bobby Turner]. He told me, “believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, then no one else will believe in you. I believe in you, but you’ve got to believe in yourself, and you’ve got to believe that you are the starter and you will be the starter.” Just him telling me that was like my coach has confidence in me, my coach believes in me. So, I know I believe in myself but I had to step it up a notch. I had to prove to my coach that I’m ready for this.
Q: You’ve played football at every level, from pee-wee to high school and college, what do you think the atmosphere will be like at your first NFL home game?
A: It’s gon’ be crazy! Hands down we have the best fans in the world. Redskins Nation is huge. That first game, with the excitement of us, having Robert [Griffin III] as our quarterback, they’re going to be so happy and so pumped. Man, I’m ready for it. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it. I know it’s going to be insane out there.
[The Washington Redskins lost 38 - 31 to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Sept. 23]