ASHBURN, Va. – On third-and-one, Robert Griffin III faked an up-the-middle handoff to Alfred Morris — and the New York Giants fell for it big-time.
“They all just crashed down on me,” Morris said. “When that happens, I really just laugh in the pile. `Ha, ha.’ I was thinking, like, `Y’all dumb, y’all tackled me, but the quarterback is running down the field.”’
Morris’ acting job on Griffin’s 46-yard scamper might have been the best example of how the Washington Redskins rookie backfield tandem is driving defenses crazy. It’s hard enough to account for a dual-threat quarterback with world-class speed, but there’s also the sixth-round draft pick from Florida Atlantic who is tied for third in the NFL with 1,106 yards rushing.
In another time or place, Morris would be the newest sensation – the kid who emerges from an 1-11 college team and instantly becomes a cog in the No. 1 rushing offense in the pros.
Instead, he’s been eclipsed by the supernova known as RG3.
“It’s a good thing for me, because I really don’t like the limelight,” Morris said. “I just love playing the game. I don’t really need any outside attention. Not to say dump it on him, but he can have it all.
“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. 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.”
That’s not to say Morris is shy or withdrawn. He talks a mile-a-minute, especially when the topic turns to old cars or movies, but he’ll happily settle for the occasional “You da man!” shout-out when he’s out in the community when compared to the nonstop adulation heaped on Griffin.
“Robert, he can’t go anywhere,” Morris said. “I’m surprised he even makes it to the movies.”
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 has also become known for his 1991 Mazda, affectionately known as “Bentley.” He thought he was going to have to park it for the winter when the battery died while he away for a few days after Thanksgiving, but a warm spell has persuaded him to keep driving it to Redskins Park every day.
If “Bentley” does give him more trouble, Morris said he’ll probably lease a car or get a ride from his roommate, a friend from middle school who happens to work at a pharmacy in the area.
Morris’ dream car, however, is a 1964 Impala.
“I’m going to get one, one of these days,” Morris said. “I want to build my ‘64 Impala from the ground up.”
If the Impala runs as well as its owner, it’ll be in good shape. Morris averages 4.8 yards per carry with a long of 39. The book on him is that he’ll take a play that’s blocked for three yards and get six, but that he’s not someone who will break one for 60.
“They keep saying that,” Morris said. “But don’t be surprised if it happens.”
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.”