Former receiver Morris anchors Rutgers defense

Mark Znidar
Rutgers linebacker Trevor Morris chases Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett during a game in 2017. Morris finished second in the Big Ten in tackles last season. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

A number of college football recruiters descended on Malvern Preparatory School in the autumn of 2014 and early winter of 2015 trying to get a commitment from linebacker and receiver Trevor Morris.

He was ranked the No. 36 recruit in Pennsylvania by Scout playing for the school in King of Prussia, a suburb of Philadelphia.

As things turned out, a lot of teams wasted a lot of money in a dead-end pursuit. Morris’ high school coach, Aaron Brady, had been a standout player for Rutgers and was in his ear for years.

“Coach Brady played at Rutgers and he was a linebacker just like me, and that’s pretty cool,” Morris said. “He would tell me about the tradition here, and I got excited hearing that. He said he could see me flourishing here. He told me about the challenges. I actually was a receiver, too, and played a lot of it. But coach Brady told me to shift my focus to linebacker.”

Taking Brady's advice paid off because Morris, who will start at weak-side linebacker against Ohio State on Saturday at Ohio Stadium, has become one of the best at his position in the Big Ten.

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In a 35-7 opening victory over Texas State last Saturday, he had nine tackles to lead the team and broke up two passes.

But that was less than his average of 9.8 tackles per game last season, when he ranked second in the Big Ten in all games. He was second with an 11.3 average in conference games.

Morris, a 6-foot-1, 228-pound senior, was in on 118 tackles in 2017 and 102 in 2016 and can become the third player in team history to have three 100-tackle seasons. Another 100-plus season would place him in the top 10 in career tackles.

"To Trevor’s credit, he’s a hard-nosed, tough guy,” defensive coordinator Jay Niemann said. “He really understands his assignments probably as well as anybody on our defense and is a really good student of the game.”

Morris is a good student, period. Two years ago, he was named to the Big Ten All-Academic team. He is majoring in labor and employment relations with the plan of working on Wall Street.

It’s first things first, though, and he wants to help Rutgers reach respectability. The team has finished 4-8, 2-10 and 4-8 in his time.

The tackles total is not an obsession with him.

“I have to give that all to the coaches, and that’s a shout-out to them,” he said. “They put me into position to make plays. I just have to execute.”

Another part of the job description is Morris having to be a leader.

“I can’t be focusing only on myself — I’ve got to think about the younger guys,” he said. “The focus has got to be on our players. It’s my duty to show leadership. We’ve got a standard to follow.”