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Chuck Landon: Former MU QB lights up scoreboard

Jul. 04, 2013 @ 12:17 AM

Chad Pennington is retired and living in Lexington, Ky.

Meanwhile, Byron Leftwich is an unsigned free agent waiting on NFL offers at his home in Atlanta.

So, does that mean there aren't any former Marshall University quarterbacks playing professional football?


Remember Bernard Morris?

The former Herd standout from 2004-07 was having the best season of his professional career for the Jacksonville Sharks of the Arena Football League before landing on injured reserve June 20 because of a leg injury.

Until then, Morris was arguably the best quarterback in the league.

The 28-year-old led Jacksonville to a 6-0 start with his scintillating play. In an opening-season 64-55 win over the Tampa Bay Storm, for example, Morris completed 24 of 31 passes for 269 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for a touchdown.

The ultra-athletic 6-foot-4, 215-pound Morris followed that performance by throwing four touchdown passes and rushing for another two scores during a 61-35 win over the Pittsburgh Power.

Sound familiar?

It should.

Morris flashed that same dual-threat athleticism at Marshall, finishing his Herd career with 483 completions in 804 attempts for 5,616 yards and 31 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,086 yards and 10 touchdowns on 292 carries.

Until the injury he suffered while running the ball against Spokane on June 9, Morris was one of the leading passers and rushers in the aerial-oriented AFL. In 12 games, Morris completed 226 of 347 passes for 2,419 yards with 50 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He also led the Sharks in rushing with 270 yards and eight touchdowns on 63 carries.

Morris has missed Jacksonville's last three games.

Perhaps, his best game was during a 55-53 win over the Philadelphia Soul. Morris completed 17 of 26 passes for 219 yards and an eye-popping eight touchdowns, while also rushing for 45 yards on eight carries.

Jacksonville has a 10-5 record, but Morris didn't play in two of the defeats.

The mere fact the former Marshall standout is playing for the Jacksonville Sharks abounds with irony. When the Sharks signed Morris early in the 2012 season, he replaced the injured Omar Jacobs who was an MU-killer during his days at Bowling Green.

Besides that, well known former Marshall star Reggie Oliver also quarterbacked the Sharks during the 1974 season in the World Football League.

Want more coincidences?

Jacksonville's head coach is former West Virginia resident Les Moss, who graduated from Poca High School in 1985. Moss played wide receiver and tight end for the Poca Dots.

Moss' father, Perry, was Marshall's head football coach in 1968 during a traumatic 0-9-1 season before resigning in the wake of numerous recruiting violations. However, Moss' daughter, Penny, who later became an anchor for WSAZ-TV, was born in Huntington.

The elder Moss went on to become a decorated coach in the AFL, giving son, Les, his start.

The younger Moss is in his fourth year as Jacksonville's head coach and has an overall record of 50-23. He was honored as the 2010 AFL Coach of the Year.

And who knows?

Moss might add another award to his trophy case, considering the Sharks have the best record in the American Conference division of the AFL.

It all depends on a former Marshall star quarterback named Bernard Morris.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.



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