All Cory Morrissey wanted was a chance. A chance to show he belonged in big-time college football at the only school he ever wanted to play for. The school he admired growing up gave him that chance, and the senior-to-be is now showing he belongs.
Last week, the Big 12 coaches announced its all-conference football teams. Six Cyclones made the list, but the name that initially jumped out at me was Morrissey’s. The defensive end from Ames (Gilbert H.S.) was named honorable mention All-Big 12 after leading all Cyclone down linemen in tackles with 52.
Morrissey started 11 games for the Cyclones in 2013, registering 6.5 tackles for loss and ranking third in the Big 12 in fumble recoveries with three.
It’s quite an accomplishment from a player who had zero major college offers out of high school. But Morrissey had a wish, and a dream. There was only one place he wanted to play football at, and he would do anything he possibly could to get there.
“I went to all the (Iowa State) games with my family growing up,” Morrissey said. “My Dad, who passed away my freshman year in high school, always told me he wanted to see me out there on the field at Jack Trice Stadium, so that is where I started my goal. It was always a goal and dream, but in high school when you actually started seeing kids being recruited, that’s when it really started to click that I have to start working hard.”
Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads always liked what he saw in Morrissey. He liked his toughness and athleticism. Morrissey was a linebacker at Gilbert, however, and Rhoads believed the only way he could play football at Iowa State was on the defensive line.
Morrissey had to make a decision. He could take scholarship offers from FCS schools, or go the junior college route while hoping to continue his development and get a coveted scholarship offer from Iowa State.
It was an easy decision for Morrissey to make.
“To me, there was no thought to go play anywhere else,” Morrissey said. “I could have gone to other schools to play tight end or linebacker, but I decided to work my hardest at being a down lineman because I wanted to be a Cyclone.”
Most football players go to junior college because they either “have” to or they “need” to. Morrissey needed to go. He needed to bulk up and improve. He signed up at Iowa Western C.C., one of the nation’s junior college powers.
As a freshman in 2011, Morrissey handled the switch to defensive end with ease. He recorded 35 tackles, six tackles for loss and four sacks to earn All-Midwest Football Conference honors.
Evidently Rhoads was impressed with Morrissey’s improvement. Since Morrissey was a qualifier out of high school, he was available to four-year colleges after one season at IWCC. Rhoads had seen enough. Morrissey was ready, and the Cyclone leader granted him his wish.
“He (Coach Rhoads) called me up to come to practice,” Morrissey said. “I got out of bed, got my sweats on and went down there. He asked me if I wanted to be a Cyclone and I asked him if I could commit on the spot. He still says it’s the fastest commit he has ever gotten.”
Morrissey’s defensive line coach at Iowa State, Curtis Bray, reflects fondly on that day.
“I really can’t describe the look on his face.” Bray remembers. “You could see it radiate out in almost pure joy in his eyes. I can vividly picture it like it was yesterday the look in his face and how excited he was.”
“I have recruited kids who have definitely wanted to be at a certain school, but I don’t know if I have a recruited a kid who took the course he did just to be able to make it to that school,” said Bray. “He had a goal in mind and he wasn’t going to take no for an answer.”
Morrissey has now reset his goals.
“I can never stop working,” Morrissey admitted. “I have new goals now. Next year I have bigger team goals and personal goals.”
Here’s to Cory Morrissey for never giving up on his dream. Iowa State sincerely thanks you, too. Not only do they have an All-Big 12 performer returning to anchor the defensive line in 2014, but they also have a student-athlete who bleeds Cardinal and Gold as a leader. It doesn’t get any better than that.