Morris excited for his Miami QB finale

Stephen Morris will leave Miami ranking among its all-time

passing leaders in completions, attempts and yards. He’s also

leaving with a degree, which makes him particularly proud.

Best of all, he’s leaving when he should.

When the NCAA mess over the acts of a former booster struck

Miami in 2011, it jeopardized Morris’ future. Bowl bans were

coming. Speculation was rampant that massive sanctions were on the

way. And through it all, even when things looked most bleak, Morris

never wavered.

”I never even looked at other schools. Didn’t even think about

it,” Morris said. ”That thought never even crossed my mind.

Miami’s my home and I made a decision to come here and I was going

to stick with it, no matter what. I was going to make the best out

of this opportunity. And if I left, who else was going to leave?

That’s not who I am. I stand by my decisions.”

Now, with his name all over the Miami record books already,

Morris has one more game before hanging up his orange and green for

good. The Hurricanes take on No. 18 Louisville on Saturday in the

Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla., a matchup of Miami natives

at quarterback with Morris on one side and the Cardinals’ Teddy

Bridgewater on the other.

Morris needs 132 yards to become the second Miami quarterback

ever with two seasons of at least 3,000 passing yards, the other

being Gino Torretta. But what’s most important to Morris is that

the Hurricanes (9-3) have a chance to finish with 10 wins for the

first time in a decade.

”That opportunity to win 10 games, that’s what’s keeping me

going,” Morris said. ”It hasn’t been done here in so long. It

isn’t about me, it’s about the seniors and everyone we took this

journey with. We have an opportunity to just win our last game,

knowing it’s our last game. We’ve got a great opportunity. We

haven’t had this in so long.”

Miami didn’t go to bowl games in 2011 and 2012 while waiting for

the NCAA mess to become settled. It’s now a thing of the past, and

even though Miami failed in its quest to play in the Atlantic Coast

Conference championship game, Morris believes that the Hurricanes

are on the cusp of returning to the national picture.

He’s certain that Miami coach Al Golden has the Hurricanes

pointed the right way.

”It’s a huge change and a huge shift in direction from where we

were going to where we are now,” Morris said. ”He taught me how

to be a man, how to be a face of a program but how to be humble at

the same time. I’m going to remember what he taught me forever. You

can’t lead without following first. It took me some time, but to

have the respect of these guys, that means everything to me and he

taught me how to make that happen.”

Golden preaches discipline and leadership, and as his tenure at

Miami grows more roots, he’s found that his players have assumed

more and more control of their own locker room.

It’s the players like Morris, he said, who have made that

possible.

”Just to see him develop and his leadership develop and

everything he’s worked for and everything he’s fought for, it truly

is incredible,” Miami offensive lineman Brandon Linder said. ”I

look up to him. I take some of the things he does and I work with

them. The things he does right, I put them in my toolbox, the way

he speaks in public and his leadership qualities. I appreciate

those things.”

Adds Miami backup quarterback Ryan Williams, who followed Morris

into graduation earlier this month and will likely follow him as

the starter in 2014: ”He likes to have fun, but he’s focused. He’s

always focused.”

These days, Morris is mostly focused on ending college with a

win.

Stats, like him being one touchdown pass away from 50 in his

career and 264 yards shy of 8,000, they’ll all mean something later

in life. He stayed to lead, and that’s why Saturday means as much

to Morris as any game he’s played as a Hurricane.

”I just want to be remembered as one of those guys who was the

same guy every day, who teammates respected, who gave the same

respect back to everyone that I met,” Morris said. ”Image is

important, but on the field, a quarterback who’s trying to help the

team win is what you really want.”