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The ’stache is off and the focus is sharper than ever

[ 0 ] April 6, 2013 |

For Iowa linebacker James Morris, part of the process of moving on from last season’s 4-8 record was to shave off his mustache.

He said it reminded him too much of last season and that this spring is all about moving forward and staying positive. Every spring is about that, but you can tell by talking to Morris, who is entering his senior season, that the stakes are higher this spring.

“I think a lot of people want to associate 4-8 with the mustache,” Morris said Wednesday. “And that’s not really fair to the mustache. I’m not going to subjugate it to the wrath of the fans.”

He’s disgusted with losing. But as a senior-to-be, time is running out for him to do anything about it.

“It’s exciting, but it’s scary,” said Morris, who rushed for 6,646 yards, made 276 career tackles and played on three state champion teams at Solon High School. “It’s really my last shot to really leave any kind of legacy worth remembering. And that’s certainly my goal. I don’t want to be kind of lost in the annals of Hawkeye history.

“I’d like to make an impact, and I’d like to say I left this program better than I found it. And it’s my last chance to do it because if you look at the last three years, I don’t know that you can necessarily say that any of those goals were accomplished.”

Morris seemed destined for stardom early on as a Hawkeyewhen he proved to be a major contributor as a true freshman.

It just seemed like a natural progression from high school superstar to college freshman force and ultimately to all-Big Ten status.

The latter has yet to happen, though.

Morris was asked this week if he feels he has played up to his potential. He answered the question, but seemed uncomfortable focusing on just his situation.

“That’s a tough question to answer,” Morris said. “I feel like I’ve given this program the last three years as much as I can humanly give. Has the result been what I wanted? No, it hasn’t. And that’s part of life, and I’ve learned that the hard way.

“If going 4-8 is the worst experience you have in your life, you’ve led somewhat of a leisurely life. So I’m not all gloom and doom. I’m just really focused on what I can do to make this year the best year it can be.”

The 6-foot, 240-pound middle linebacker has shown flashes of brilliance in college while starting 29 games over the past three seasons. But Morris also has struggled to stay healthy and that’s made it difficult for him to take his performance to the next level.

“Last fall was up down, and right now I feel pretty healthy,” Morris said. “I feel good. I’ll be honest; it was a long time after the season when I felt good again.”

Morris is spending this spring getting better acquainted with new Iowa assistant coach Jim Reid, whose focus will be on the middle linebackers. Reid also met with the media Wednesday and said he noticed right away after joining Kirk Ferentz’s coaching staff that the players were locked in on getting better.

“There’s a focus here that doesn’t guarantee you success,” Reid said. “But if you don’t have the focus that we have right now, then you can’t have success.”

Going through spring practice will move Morris a step closer to the 2013 season, but it’s also testing his patience with the season opener still five months away. Morris grew up around the Iowa football program with his father Greg Morris the long-time equipment manager. Morris sees the reminders of Iowa’s past success in football every time he walks through the UI football complex and that really gets his blood pumping.

“When we come in, there are football players everywhere on the walls and everybody is talking football,” Morris said. “So it’s kind of inescapable. So in that respect it’s kind of annoying that we can’t do anything about it for a while.”

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or pharty@press-citizen.com.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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