James Perry says two words best explain how his former go-to wide receiver at Brown University, Sean Morey, has floated between some of the winningest football franchises the last decade.
"Work ethic," said Perry, now an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at his alma mater, who was driving around Milwaukee yesterday on a recruiting mission.
"It's corny, but it's true. First of all, he's got a ton of talent (he ran a 10.84 100 meters in high school). I saw that the first day I threw to him. But I've never been around a guy who works harder in all my years as a player and now a coach. Nobody."
Morey's "work ethic" has taken him a long way. This week the Marshfield, Mass., native is in Tampa with the Arizona Cardinals for Super Bowl XLIII. The Cardinals' special teams captain, who was initially drafted in the seventh round by the Patriots in 1999, will be leaving after the big game for Hawaii to play in the Pro Bowl.
Perry has some cachet here. He led Brown to the Ivy League championship in 1999, and holds virtually every school and Ivy League passing record, including passing yards in a season (3,255) and career (9,294), completions in a season (309) and career (789), touchdown passes in a game (6) and career (74), and total offense in a career (9,236).
But Perry says the star of stars was his college pal, who had some numbers to chew on himself.
Morey finished with an Ivy League record 251 receptions for 3,850 yards and 40 touchdowns, and was voted Ivy League player of the year in 1997. Morey, the first Brown player to have his number retired, still holds seven Ivy League records.
After starting out on the Patriots practice squad in 1999, he was cut in 2000 and caught on with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2001 and played there three years before leaving for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004, playing three more years, including the 2005 season which culiminated in a Super Bowl title.
It was in Pittsburgh where he caught the eye of three important people who now work for the Cardinals — head coach Ken Whisenhunt, assistant head coach Russ Grimm and special teams coach Kevin Spencer.
"Nothing he has done surprises me," said Perry, who was the only one of five athletic brother not to attend Andover High, instead graduating from Malden Catholic. "I remember when he was cut by the Patriots. He was also cut a few other times. It never fazed him. Other people get down, but he always said to me, 'I'll end up somewhere.' "
While Morey was a star receiver at Brown, he has cut his teeth on special teams. Again, no surprises in the Perry camp.
"When we were at Brown he wanted to play on special teams. He wanted to play on defense. He begged to play back deep (as a safety) if a team was trying the 'Hail Mary' play at the end of a game," recalled Perry, who teamed with Morey for two record-breaking seasons. "It's funny, he was returning punts for us but the coaches had to pull him because he never would call a fair catch and he'd get crushed. He was too valuable as a receiver."
Perry remembered a time when his brother John, now the head football coach at Merrimack College, visited Brown when he was working as an assistant at the University of New Hampshire. He offered some advice to Morey, that playing pickup basketball in the offseason would help his athleticism as a receiver.
"So what does Sean do? He would call me every day at 4:30 p.m. in the spring semester to go over to daily game, which started at 5 p.m." said Perry. "We would get there late, because of me, and he would get ticked because we didn't get in the first game. He respected John and did exactly what he said. That's Sean."
Perry will be among a big contingent of Brown football coaches and players who will get together to root for the Cardinals.
Apparently a few players are Pittsburgh natives and bleed black and gold.
"They've already been told they will have to find their own party," said Perry. "We're all Cardinals fans on Sunday. We're all Sean Morey fans on Sunday."
E-mail Bill Burt at email@example.com.
Morey remembers Perry as a tough guy
Can you tells us anything about James Perry? Any good stories?
Morey: "[He laughs] I have too many. I probably shouldn't even say."
Could you give us one good one?
Morey: "It was my senior year. I remember he had a torn PCL, LCL - everything you could do to your knee, he did it. And then he injured his left knee as well. So senior year, right before we're going out to play Yale, reporters came in to interview James and he was on crutches. He took the crutches and put them behind the door. He walked towards the reporters as if nothing was wrong ... Just a tough, tough guy. He played for his team, played hard all the time."
Q: How about one more?
Morey: "My senior year he would wake me up all the time, bang on my door every Sunday and drag me to church. He was just a man of conviction and just a great person and a great friend."
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