Morris travels long road to Clemson

By Roy Philpott
CUTigers.com
January 13, 2011 


CLEMSON – It was only a year ago Chad Morris turned down Tulsa head coach Todd Graham on three separate occasions to make the transition from the high school level to the college ranks.

What made him finally make the leap?

CUTigers asked Clemson’s new offensive coordinator that very question Thursday after an hour-long press conference with reporters from around the state.

Morris admitted it took him a while to come around, but it was a promise of family that ultimately led him away from all that he had known up to that point.

“I was in an unbelievable area at the time. The Austin area is beautiful and a great place to raise a family. I had it. I mean our facilities were awesome, they would rival colleges,” he said. “I was content. It wasn’t the glitz and the glamour of college football. It wasn’t ‘oh my goodness.’ That’s not why you do it. You do it to try and make a difference in a kid’s life.

“But after three times he finally convinced me. He’s a great recruiter. He just assured me my family was going to be taken care of. It was so important to me that my kids, McKenzie and Chandler and my wife get to experience the same thing I did.

“Coach [Graham] assured them they would be a part of it and when you got your son and your daughter and your wife standing on the field at Notre Dame. Wow.


New Clemson offensive coordinator helped lead Tulsa to 10 wins in 2010, including a one-point victory at Notre Dame. (Getty Images) 
“But it’s not about Chad Morris. It will never be about me. It has to be about my family.”

Tulsa beat Notre Dame that day, 28-27, by the way. It was a win that helped the Golden Hurricane get to 10 victories this season and a win that also made Morris more of hotter commodity than he already was.

Nowhere was the illustrated more than in the last week when Morris received an offer from Dabo Swinney to become Clemson’s next offensive coordinator with rumors floating around about interest from Oklahoma State for the same position, not to mention the head coaching job at Tulsa.

In what would best be deemed as a stressful situation for most people, Morris told CUTigers he leaned on his old friend, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn for advice.

Even though Malzahn was preparing for the biggest game of his life – the BCS Championship, he still took the time to speak with his old friend.

“Talking to Gus as regularly as I did he said, ‘look, you need to understand what’s getting ready to happen to you. Just trust me.’ Even through this whole process of me coming here, Gus was getting ready for the national championship he was answering phone calls from Chad Morris,” he said.

“I was saying, ‘Gus here’s what may be in the mix.’ He and I talked in-depth (about job opportunities). In-depth. It may have been after midnight. He would always tell me, ‘I told you. I told you.’ He would always tell me, ‘coach we are just two high school coaches that coach in college football and are doing pretty good at it and we are very blessed.’

Of course, it was those 18 years of being a high school coach that molded him into the man he is today.

Morris isn’t bashful about it either.

He believes not only will that high school coaching pay off when it comes to recruiting at Clemson, but it also helped him build and tweak his offensive philosophy. In other words, while pundits will point to his lack of college experience, as Morris says, “football is football.”


“Talking to Gus as regularly as I did he said, ‘look, you need to understand what’s getting ready to happen to you. Just trust me.’ Even through this whole process of me coming here, Gus was getting ready for the national championship he was answering phone calls from Chad Morris,” he said.


So far, he’s been right. At Tulsa, Morris directed one of the most prolific rushing and passing attacks college football has ever seen – in just one season mind you.

“I will always be a high school coach and I’m proud of that. It’s who I am and I’ll never back down from that,” he said. “18 years in Texas and then one in college it’s not like you start your whole career over (by coming to Clemson).

“You take things you’ve learned for 18 years and you apply them to what you are doing now. I’m proud of that and it’s something I won’t back down from, ever.”

And now that he’s settling in at Clemson, Morris says there is no looking back.

Even though he left Tulsa with no hard feelings after he wasn’t offered the job there, there’s no wondering, ‘what if?’

It’s full speed ahead on getting Clemson football back to where it belongs – at the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“Those kids at the University of Tulsa deserve the best they can get,” he said. “(But) my thought process is that my mind was made up. Once this job was talked about with me, we talked about it as a family.

“We got up that Sunday morning we talked about it. We went to church and we decided this is what we are going to do. I had no reservations. I have peace in my decision.”

From the high school ranks in Austin to the college ranks in Tulsa, and now to Clemson – Chad Morris didn’t take the most normal of routes to big time college football.

But that’s okay, his good friend and mentor Gus Malzahn didn’t either.