Brian Morrissey ’09 is just days away from the biggest game of his life. This Saturday, the captain will strap on his pads and take the field one last time in a showdown against Amherst that will not only decide the Little Three championship, but could establish Morrissey as Williams’ all-time leading rusher.
With 2596 yards over the last four years, Morrissey has led the team in rushing for three of those years. Now 47 yards is all Morrissey needs to become the leading rusher in school history.
With one of Williams’ great athletic records well within reach, Morrissey has taken an interesting, yet characteristic tactic: ignore it.
“It’s not about stats or records with Moe; it’s about our team being successful that matters to him most, and that’s special,” Head Coach Mike Whalen said.
“I haven’t thought too much about the record and what it means to me,” Morrissey said. “I would say that it would serve as an example of the great players I’ve played with and the great coaching staff I’ve played for as much as anything else. Winning this last Amherst game is more important to me right now.”
This Saturday, Morrissey and the rest of the team will certainly have their work cut out for them. With records of 5-2, Williams and Amherst are about as evenly matched as they come. Both boast excellent defensive corps and strong offenses to boot.
“Amherst has the best rushing defense in the league, and we have the best rushing offense in the league,” Morrissey said. “I’m excited for that challenge. Something’s got to give. But after the Homecoming game, I’m confident in our ability to win this game.”
Morrissey has good reason for such confidence. Although the team lost in a frustrating 20-17 decision to Trinity in the second game of the season and in a humbling 17-7 contest to Tufts three weeks later, Williams has once again proven to be one of the toughest teams in the conference this season.
Additionally, with three consecutive wins against Amherst, no player on the squad has lost to their archrival.
“It’s tough to put into words how much this game means for me and for the rest of the seniors,” Morrissey said. “This is our last game against our rival, and we want to go out on top. We also want to be able to say we beat Amherst every year we were here. You can tell from the atmosphere on the team that we’re excited for this game.”
Whalen also shares his team’s excitement and confidence. With one of the best running backs in the program’s history at the helm, it would seem that Whalen’s faith in the Ephs is well-founded.
“Moe gives you 100 percent every time he steps on the football field, regardless of whether it’s practice or a game,” Whalen said. “He is a complete football player and takes a lot of pride in his pass blocking. His work ethic and commitment both in and out of season is second to none. You know that every game he is going to give everything he has to help lead our team to victory.”
Leading the conference in rush attempts (197), yards rushing (909), touchdowns (10) and yards per game (129.9), Morrissey certainly has the ability to lift his team above the Jeffs and their daunting defense.
Morrissey also possesses the intangibles that may be equally important in determining the outcome of the game. His quiet yet steady leadership, grim determination and unyielding work ethic commands respect, as his teammates will attest.
“Morrissey is a great team leader because of the amount of respect all of the players have for him and his work ethic,” tight end Austin Norris ’09 said. “He’s earned that respect through consistently performing at a high level and putting the team before himself. He’s a player who came in and has made a significant impact since his freshman year, but still worked hard every offseason to come back better the next season.”
Morrissey’s leadership style serves as an ideal complement to the more forceful approach of co-captain Trevor Powers ’09. “I think I lead by example,” Morrissey said. “That’s why Trevor and I work well together. He’s fiery and an in-your-face kind of guy. He’ll tell you bluntly if you did something wrong. I’m quieter and try to lead with my play on the field and how I conduct myself off the field.”
This Saturday will mark the end of a long road for Williams’ humble leader. The running back first took to the gridiron in first grade, when he started playing Pop Warner football. Morrissey credits his father, who played college football at Ithaca, for imbuing him with a love of the game. “My dad’s a football guy; I guess you kind of get it through osmosis,” Morrissey said.
Win or lose, when Morrissey hangs up his pads for the last time after Saturday’s game, “it’s going to be tough.” He added, “I’m really going to miss football.”
After college, Morrissey plans to stay active, even if he no longer has the opportunity to play at such a competitive level again. “I’m sure I’m going to find some way to stay active, whether that’s just playing pickup with my buddies or joining [a] flag football league,” he said. “I just want to find a way to stay in shape, because if I’m just sitting around, I won’t feel good at all.”
Fortunately for Morrissey, this Saturday won’t spell the end of his collegiate athletic career. The football co-captain also serves as tri-captain of the lacrosse team.
And even after he leaves college athletics, Morrissey will take with him the lessons he learned while wearing purple and gold. He points to “hard work and accountability” as the two most important lessons he’s taken from Williams sports. “In high school you could get away with not being in the weight room all the time,” he said. “But here you have to work hard to succeed; there’s really no letting down. And accountability is key because in college [your coaches and teammates] expect you to succeed. They’re not going to hold your hand to make sure you get the job done.”
This Saturday, if there’s one Eph to get that job done, it’s Brian Morrissey.