Ex-Wolverine Shane Morris ready for last chance at Central

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Former Michigan quarterback will be playing at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant this fall.

Mount Pleasant — “The Shaner” sandwich is listed high on top of the Max & Emily’s sandwich board, so it should come as no surprise it caught the eye of Shane Morris.

“I had to try it,” Morris said, laughing.

Morris wears the maroon and gold of Central Michigan these days, walking around his new home with the confidence of a 22-year-old who has successfully learned from the highs and lows during a college football career that did not go as anticipated at Michigan. But he also will tell anyone who cares to ask that those years in Ann Arbor are priceless to him.

“Greatest four years of my life,” Morris told The Detroit News this week over lunch. “I loved it there. I don’t regret anything. I had an unbelievable time, got a great education. To be able to say I graduated from the No. 1 public university in the world, it was an unbelievable time.”

No promises have been made, but the hard-slinging lefthander could finally get his shot at being a full-time starting quarterback this fall at Central Michigan, which returns its offense from last year, minus its quarterback. He moved here last Saturday and as a fifth-year graduate transfer does not have to sit out this fall.

“I look at it as a last chance,” Morris said, adding there’s the bonus of starting a master’s program in business. “It’s kind of like my last shot at hopefully playing in the NFL. Kind of all-in for that right now. It’s my dream. I’m lucky enough to get another opportunity, really. Lucky that Central took a chance on me.”

Morris made two starts at Michigan. The quarterbacks he will be competing against this fall have not yet taken a snap in a college game. Central Michigan coach John Bonamego will not be talking about the quarterback situation until the start of the season.

Still, Morris describes this as CMU taking a chance.

“My college career didn’t go very well so far so they really didn’t know what they were getting,” he said. “Obviously, I did well in high school, but they don’t know, you know what I mean?

“I told (Bonamego) I would be 100 percent committed to the team. I’m not going to try to compare what happened at Michigan and what’s happening at Central. I’m going to come in and compete. I’m not expecting to be handed the job. I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can to be the best quarterback for the team that I possibly can.”

Settling in at CMU

Morris feels comfortable in Mount Pleasant. It’s smaller, yes, and there are fewer diversions, although he already is fond of the local bowling alley. The football facilities don’t compare to Michigan’s, but that doesn’t faze him.

The Chippewas’ roster draws from the state, so Morris knows many of his teammates from their high school days, and they know him. He is rooming with Josh Cox, a former Warren De La Salle teammate, and Berkley Edwards, younger brother of former Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards. Josh Sinagoga, who was Morris’ quarterback predecessor at De La Salle, is now a graduate assistant, and Paul Verska, his high school coach, is now the director of high school relations / special assistant to the head coach.

Shane Morris is playing at Central Michigan this season as a graduate transfer from Michigan.

“I just really wanted a place where I knew I’d have a chance to play right away,” Morris said. “A good chance. I knew I wasn’t going to be handed a position. I’m going to have to compete for it in camp, but I’m excited. It’s close to home so all my family can come and still watch. I know people here, which is always helpful. I’ve got people looking out for me.”

Morris will join his new teammates for organized weight room work next week, but for now, his schedule is this: He wakes up at 7 a.m., lifts at 8, then runs, has lunch, watches film, naps and then throws. He’s also been working on his speed, and as he studies and learns the playbook – his fourth in college – he is eager to play for offensive coordinator Chris Ostrowsky.

“This offense, I think it really fits me,” Morris said. “I’m throwing the ball a lot, getting an opportunity to run, as well. Fast-paced, tempo, no-huddle. It’s going to be good stuff.”

Morris is all about his future, not looking back. He doesn’t discuss what happened on the field and off after his start against Minnesota in 2014 spiraled out of control late when he came up hobbled and looking disoriented before returning to the game. Michigan was immersed in a national concussion story as a result. He never started another game.

While his Michigan football career did not go as he had hoped, he has heard nothing but positive comments from Michigan fans who have wished him well at CMU.

“College football is a very humbling experience,” he said. “You’re going to get knocked down. There are a lot of ups and downs, and you eventually learn how to get through them in your own way. Other people have different ways, and everyone’s got different approaches to getting through tough times. Mine is really relying on my family and my girlfriend and my friends. I have really good friends, and I have a really great family who are always there for me.”

Considering what he has been through, Morris said he feels prepared for life.

“I honestly think it was a great experience for me to help me become a better man, smarter, and understand how to go through adversity. Keeping your head up and still working and not giving up,” Morris said. “I would rather have had what happened to me when I was 19 years old than have it when I’m 35 and have a family and I’m not prepared. I lose my job as a 35-year-old with a wife and kids, what am I going to do?

“I didn’t want to go through it. No one wants to go through it, but you don’t get to choose what happens to you in life. You’d like to see it go different. Most people would. But there’s nothing you can do about it. I believe God has a plan. Everything happens for a reason. I don’t know what the plan was, but I’m getting another opportunity. I’m going to make the most of it.”

Successful transfers

Morris mentioned several players who transferred from Michigan who made it to the NFL, like Thomas Rawls, Richard Ash and Josh Furman. He also points to Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He was a one-year starter at quarterback at North Carolina.

“He started 13 games in his college career and got drafted No. 2 overall,” he said. “If I start this year, I’ll have more starts than that. We’ll see how that goes. You see a lot of guys for whatever reason didn’t play in the first four years and get another opportunity somewhere else and make the most of it and have a great NFL career.”

Shane Morris congratulates running back Thomas Rawls on his 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of a win over Central Michigan in 2013.

During the 2015 season, Morris set in motion his future.

He lost the starting job in camp to Jake Rudock, a graduate transfer from Iowa, after some very difficult weeks between the two.

“Jake and I didn’t get along at all,” Morris said, smiling.

“Jake didn’t really know who I was when he first came in, and I didn’t know who he was and I didn’t care. I didn’t want to try to get to know him because obviously he’s there to take my job. He got there, and I wasn’t nice to him, and I didn’t help him. He kind of got that right away. He understood what was going on. He’s not going to try to talk to someone who didn’t want to talk to him.

“Last week of camp, OK, Jake’s going to start. As soon as I knew that, I started helping him. I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going to do everything I can to help you.’

“Jake and I are very close now. He came to a party we had and he said, ‘Dude, I still remember in camp, I thought you were the biggest (jerk). I didn’t like you at all. And all of a sudden in the Utah game after I threw my first interception, and you came up to me and talked to me on the sideline, I was like, all right, this guy is not so bad.’ That’s how I am. As long as it’s a competition, I’m ruthless. I’m not going to help him beat me out. But as soon as the decision is made, then I’m all for the team.”

'I'll do fine' 

By the third week of that season, Morris asked Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh if he could redshirt so he could have the option to transfer as a graduate. Last season he was a backup to Wilton Speight.

Morris, who behind the scenes and with no fanfare contributes a lot of his time to charity and helping out with various foundations, could have stayed at Michigan.

Harbaugh, for whom Morris has a great deal of admiration, particularly for his innovative approach to the game and giving his players opportunities, gave Morris the option of returning this spring and working to earn a scholarship in the fall. But Harbaugh, during their meeting last December before the bowl game, told him if he wanted to play, transferring would be his best option.

“I’m completely understanding of that,” Morris said.

“He’s like, ‘If you want any help with anything, I’m glad to help you out. I’ll call whoever you want me to call, I’ll send film to whoever you want me to send film to. You can work out here and throw until you leave. Your locker is not going to be gone until the day you leave.’”

Morris’ locker is at Central Michigan now. His future is here, and now he’s equipped with perspective.

“Obviously, football didn’t go well – yet,” Morris said.

“But that’s a very, very small thing in life. Hopefully it becomes a bigger part of my life. But if it doesn’t, I’ll do fine.”