VANCOUVER — Take a chance, head west young man.
Alex Morrison did just, packing his bags in the fall of 2012 and leaving home in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., for a brand new adventure in Vancouver.
All these years later, he is the collegiate version of the pro’s pro.
On Saturday, in a game Morrison and the ‘Birds dearly hope is not their final home contest of the season, UBC plays host to Regina in the Canada West’s Hardy Cup semifinals (3 p.m.) at the stadium.
Last week, before he could even come off the field after catching two dramatic touchdown passes in UBC’s 44-15 regular-season finale victory over the Rams, Varsity Letters did it’s best press coverage on UBC’s veteran receiver, who interviews a lot like B.C. Lions’ quarterback Travis Lulay.
Here’s what we got:
Varsity Letters: Your head coach, Blake Nill, admitted to me last week that he had under-utilized you. He made amends, and you caught two TD passes today. Your thoughts?
Alex Morrison: I know coach Nill is very hard on all his players. He demands a lot of them which in turn brings out the best in everyone. We saw earlier in the season different guys step up (at the wide-field receiver spot). That has just been the mantra. If your name is called, you go in and execute and do what you can do to help the team win. I was just thankful to get the opportunity to help the team when we have been sputtering at times. It felt good today to be able to give us lift.
VL: It’s that wide-side spot that you’ve returned to. It’s like getting back to your strength?
AM: Definitely. I put in a lot of work with Mike (UBC quarterback Michael O’Connor) and our other quarterbacks the past few years to familiarize myself with playing against coverages, just different routes that we come up with and it’s a good comfort zone for me. But at the end of the day. I am just thankful to be put in a position to produce.”
VL: Your 62-yard catch-and-run touchdown down the sidelines with under two minutes left in the second half was one of this team’s biggest scores of the season. You were so close to the sideline but you kept onside and scored. What was that play all about?
AM: It was a zone defence so the corner was outside of me, trying to push me inside. So that is something we talked about, right before, that it might open for us. So as soon as I started down the sideline, I knew ball was right on me. I knew I was close to sidelines and (O’Connor) delivered a perfect ball to me.
VL: So many begin their university football careers hoping that by the end of it, it would have helped them set an even more focused path to the next level. You’ve won a Vanier Cup (2015), you were drafted by and attended training camp with the Montreal Alouettes and you went to free agent camp with the New York Giants. Just sayin!
AM: I learned so much from Alouettes camp, from being around professionals and watching and learning how they approach things on a day-to-day basis. It’s all the little tricks you learn. Now, I am trying my best with the young guys we have here and show them what I learned there and in New York.
Whatever I can do to help the team win, whether it’s run-blocking, how to attack certain coverages. I am just glad to be in a position to give back, and to thrive in my role.
VL: I remember your freshman year when (former UBC head coach) Shawn Olson brought you in and you were a difference-maker in the return game. How far-reaching has your career been here?
AM: It’s been about persistence. My first year I red-shirted and I worked incredibly hard to develop. In the second year, coach Orazietti (UBC offensive coordinator Paul Oriazetti), who was at that time the special teams coordinator, gave me the opportunity to get on the field. And that has been the mantra for me ever since: You get the opportunity and you have to produce. I was just so thankful I got a chance to help our team in 2013, and then to just continue to be able to work hard and in 2015 be able to shoulder more of the load and take more of a leadership role. That all continues to today. I have goals I am now looking towards.
(Editor’s note — I have seen a lot of dramatic kick-off returns, but the best may have been from Morrison’s rookie year of 2013 when he returned one 102 yards to the end zone against a Calgary team coached by Blake Nill. And that is because the most fun thing about watching Morrison is the nuanced deception and the sneaky speed in his gallop)
VL: I know you and your teammates are focused on four more wins, but after this season, what’s in store?
AM: The Alouettes have my rights so I will be back in training camp with them in May. But I have not looked past this season yet. Obviously one of the big decisions for me was coming back (to UBC) rather than staying on the practice squad. T come back, to finish my degree and to win another national championship. That is how every fifth-year guy wants to finish their (university) career and I am doing everything I can the next couple of weeks to make that happen.
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