WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – When most people talk about a rookie on the Washington Redskins, they focus on quarterback Robert Griffin, III and with good reason. But there’s another rookie who’s running away from the competition as well.
Former Florida Atlantic University running back Alfred Morris was a sixth-round pick of the Skins in this year’s draft, but he’s played like he should have been picked much higher. Morris is currently tied for third in the NFL with 1,106 rushing yards.
Morris likely doesn’t have a chance to catch Adrian Peterson for the rushing title, but the fact that he’s emerged as the Robin for RGIII’s Batman has made Redskins fans believe in the team again for the first time in years.
“People feel like I’m in the shadow — I don’t feel like I’m in the shadow. I’m thankful that he’s my quarterback,” Morris said. “And I’m glad that we get an opportunity to be rookies together, to grow together. I hope it’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship, and that it goes on for quite some time.”
What makes the tandem of RGIII and Morris especially deadly this year is the read-option. RGIII will take the snap in the shotgun and place the ball in Morris stomach. If the defensive end stays at home on the outside, RGIII will hand the ball off to Morris.
Conversely, if the defensive end crashes down towards the center, RGIII will pull the ball out and take off to where the defensive end was before crashing down the line.
Morris also knows his road to NFL success was hardly guaranteed. He was far from a sure bet to make the roster when he arrived at training camp to compete with Tim Hightower, Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster. A 107-yard preseason effort against the Indianapolis Colts, who were playing their starters for much of the game, put Morris in the running for the starting job and confirmed to him that: “I know for a fact I can do this.”
Now he has five 100-yard rushing games, including a season-best 124 in Monday night’s 17-16 win over the Giants that raised Washington’s record to 6-6 ahead of Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
“I didn’t think I’d touch the field until around the fifth or sixth game,” Morris said. “Maybe I’d get in there and get a couple of snaps. If I told you I’d known it was going to happen this fast, it would have been a lie. But I’m just thankful that it did.”
Morris is also emphatic that he’s not going to hit the so-called rookie wall, having learned the rigors of life in the pros in a hurry.
“All the stuff I didn’t do in college, I do now,” Morris said. “I never stretched in college. I was stiff as a board. … I’m not going to hit a rookie wall. I don’t mean that to be, like, arrogant or anything. It’s the truth. I’ve been taking care of my body, and mentally I’m prepared for anything.”
And, while Griffin continues to get most of the publicity, Morris is also learning more about the role model responsibility that comes with being a productive NFL player. He shared a letter he received this week from the family of Michael Denis Morlino, a Redskins fan from Virginia who died in October at the age of 11.
“He just took a liking to me,” Morris said. “I don’t know why.”
Morris said he plans to frame the letter. He said he was particularly touched by a quote Michael’s family found written in pencil on a piece of paper in the boy’s room: “Arrogance leads to failure. Success is derived from patience and humility.”
“So much negative stuff going around,” Morris said. “Kids need someone positive to look up to.”
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)