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Morse relishes his role as 'guard in the backfield'

BY SCOTT MILLER | SEPTEMBER 23, 2010 7:20 AM

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It's funny to look at Brett Morse's high-school statistics now.

Iowa's bruising fullback was once a dual-threat quarterback for Hinsdale (Ill.) Central. He broke the school record for total yards in a season (3,063) his senior year and even returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown.

Morse, now a senior at Iowa, hardly ever handles the ball anymore. He playfully calls himself a "guard in the backfield." He has never touched the ball more than three times in a game, never scored more than one touchdown in a season, never gained more than 20 yards in a contest.

And yet, he may be one of the most essential cogs in Iowa's pro-style offense. A third-year starter, he's the resident kamikaze in the Hawkeye attack, tasked with eliminating an opponent's linebacker on nearly every run play.

"It's one of those positions where you don't get the ball and you've got to get hit by the hardest hitter on the other team every single game," senior quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. "Without the work that [Morse] does, it's very hard to run the offense that we have. It really is."

Morse is in on nearly all of Iowa's two-back set; he is only taken out when an extra tight end or a third wide receiver is brought in on offense. The last three seasons, he has been a mainstay in the Hawkeye offense, starting 16-consecutive games and 25 games total in an Iowa uniform.

That's the most consecutive games started among all active players on Iowa's offense.

"He really takes it to a level where he's in the training room, doing everything he can to keep his body healthy because as a fullback, he takes a lot of shots," senior linebacker and roommate Jeff Tarpinian said.

Part of the secret to Morse's durability has been preparing his body for the continual "collisions" on the field, as he put it. He came into Iowa as a 6-4, 225-pound quarterback who was used to getting sheltered from contact.

He has now blossomed into a 240-pound wrecking ball who has cleared the way for some of Iowa's best rushing performances. Morse was Shonn Greene's lead blocker in 2008, when the former Hawkeye running back rushed for a single-season record 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Morse also bulldozed Iowa State linebacker Jake Knott several times on Sept. 11, leading the way for a 275-yard day on the ground for the Hawkeyes.

When asked about his hits on Knott, Morse said, "There are a lot of collisions out there. They kind of all run together."

Head coach Kirk Ferentz said wryly, "Not bad for a former quarterback. He has overcome his past to become a football player now."

Iowa's quarterback-turned-fullback doesn't get nostalgic about his high-school glory days. He doesn't yearn for the games where he touched the ball every play and cemented his reputation as the best player on the field.

Stanzi said that he and Morse sometimes throw the ball around after practice. The quarterback joked, "I think he knows that he has kind of lost his touch a little bit."

The fullback, who's 12 semester hours away from earning a business-management degree, also takes a light-hearted approach to his role as the team's ultimate statistical anomaly. When asked if there's a "Morse Draw" in the playbook, the senior laughed and said that if offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe called a draw play for him, it would be a sheer "accident."

That's OK. For now, he's perfectly content with his role as a "guard in the backfield." So far this season, his stat line reads: One catch for one yard and a touchdown.

Just the way he likes it.

"I'm glad they didn't try to bring me in as a quarterback because I wouldn't have been able to succeed," Morse said matter-of-factly. "I'm just not worried about it. I just enjoy helping the team as much as I can, and if that's never touching the ball, that's great."


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