Albany High two-way lineman Jontavious Morris, a 6-foot-2, 302-pound senior, has graded out above 90 percent on the offensive line so far this season and has made 25 tackles, including 11 for a loss.
ALBANY — Georgia’s offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was visiting Albany High last spring when Indians coach Felton Williams pulled out the highlight film from his team’s 2010 season.
“It was a film of highlights for our team,’’ Williams said. “But when he was watching the film Bobo thought it was a highlight film that I had created just for Jontavious Morris. He was in so many plays Bobo really thought it was Jontavious’ highlight film. It seemed like he was in on every play.’’
It’s hard to miss Morris, a Herald Dynamite Dozen selection who could have earned that distinction as either a defensive lineman or an offensive lineman.
He not only plays both ways — Morris plays with speed and desire and an unrelenting passion for the game — a one-man highlight film who has helped Albany turn its program around.
“He’s got that fire,’’ said Albany High quarterback Emmanul Byrd, who has known Morris since middle school. “He’s the type of person who gives you everything, and he does it in every game. He’s got that passion, that fire.
“Last year I saw him split the tackle and the guard on a play where he dislocated his shoulder, and he still got the quarterback sack. He came off the field, got the shoulder popped back in, and came right back on the field.’’
That’s Morris, who thinks he is supposed to be in on every play.
“It’s hard to get him out of the game,’’ AHS offensive line coach Chadwick Pope said. “He never wants to come out. I can see when he needs a blow, and I get him out of there, but he never wants to come out.’’
And he almost never slows down.
“He never quits,’’ said Calvin Jackson, who plays linebacker and fullback for Albany High. “He’s always going at 100 percent, even when he is hurt.’’
To get an idea, take a look at the first two games of the season: Morris has already made 25 tackles, including 11 for losses and four sacks. He has graded out above 90 on the offensive line, and he has six pancake blocks in two games.
Well, six pancakes in six quarters. He played in only the first half in Albany’s rout against Dougherty in a game that was 32-0 at halftime.
“His engine is going all the time,’’ Williams said. “He is so valuable to this team. He is as vital to this team as a wheel is to a car.’’
Morris is big (6-foot-2, 302 pounds). He’s strong (he bench presses 350 pounds, and he squats 615 pounds). And he’s quick for a big man (he runs the 40 in 5.0).
Get to know Jontavious Morris
New this year, a half dozen questions for our Dynamite Dozen players about their likes off the football field:
Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: “McDonald’s chicken nuggets.”
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: “Love and Basketball. I’ve been watching it ever since I was a kid, and I never get tired of seeing it over and over.’’
Q: Who is your favorite entertainer (movie star, comedian, singer etc)?
A: “(Comedian/actor) Mike Epps. He’s just a funny guy, whether he’s a stand-up comic or in the movies. I like it all.”
Q: Who is your favorite NFL player?
A: “The Minnesota Vikings’ right end, Jared Allen. I went to a camp in Atlanta and learned a lot from him. And he has a great work ethic.’’
Q: If you were stranded on an island, who would you want to be with you?
A: “Alicia Keys.”
Q: Who is the person you owe everything to?
A: “My parents, because they pushed me and were never satisfied. If I brought home a B, they wanted an A. They wanted me to have it better than they did.”
And he’s smart.
Morris has a 3.6 GPA and went to the DECA Nationals in Florida last year for marketing after winning the regionals in Georgia.
“It’s like having a coach on the field,’’ Pope said. “He makes my job easy. He will take care of whatever we need to take care of. He’s a quarterback on the line. He’s telling (the young linemen) what to do, and if I have a problem with anybody, he’ll take care of the problem for me.’’
And he’s versatile.
“He plays center, guard or tackle,’’ Pope said. “He plays mostly tackle, but will play center or guard depending what we want to do. He’s been grading out at 90 percent since he’s been here, since he started as a freshman. I know other coaches would love to have him. I’ll put him up against anybody in the city.’’
Morris has already had offers from UAB, North Carolina A&T, Tennessee State, and recently Kent State and Troy have shown interest. Georgia wants to wait and see, but the Bulldogs have shown interest. All the schools on that list, however, are recruiting Morris as a defensive tackle.
He has tremendous quickness and a feel for the game that is all but uncanny.
“I remember a game last year when we were in a 5-2 defense, and as soon as the center hiked the ball, he grabbed the ball right out of the center’s hands,’’ Jackson said. “And he calls out every play on defense. He’s so smart he can see the play before it happens.’’
All this from a guy who didn’t even used to like football.
“When I was in sixth grade I didn’t play football,’’ Morris said. “I really didn’t want to play, but everybody kept telling me, ‘You’re so big you should play football.’ I heard that from everyone. But I didn’t have a passion for it. Coaches would see me at school and they knew I wasn’t a trouble maker, and they would ask me why I wasn’t playing.’’
Finally, he gave up and started playing in seventh grade.
“All my friends were playing football and I was going to the games anyway,’’ he said. “But it didn’t come easy for me. I really didn’t start liking football until I came (to Albany High) in ninth grade. I started as a ninth-grader and that was really an eye-opener for me. They had these seniors who were bigger than me — but they started me.’’
Morris just got better and better.
“I wanted to learn the game, and I was like a sponge. Whatever they told me, I just soaked it up,’’ Morris said. “Now I really like the game, and football separates you from trouble. I’m a very determined guy, and I wanted to get better.’’
Morris — his teammates say — is one of those guys who could be anything he sets his mind to being.
“He could be the mayor of the city if he wanted to be,’’ said Roscoe Byrd, another two-way lineman at Albany High who is also a Dynamite Dozen selection. They are the closest of friends and have been since fourth grade.
“He plays with so much heart. He plays with heart on every play. That’s the kind of people we need not only on the football field, but in the community,” Roscoe added.
Roscoe Byrd said they push each other all the time.
“If he’s got five pancakes, I want six,’’ Byrd said. “We push each other. When it’s time to get on me, he gets on me. When it’s time to give me a hug, he gives me a hug.’’
Roscoe’s brother, Emmanul Byrd, said Morris is so funny that he could be a comedian, and Jackson added that Morris could be “a magician.’’
Morris has a quick wit and loves to tell jokes, and he also knows some card tricks and can make a quarter appear and disappear in and out of his ear.
But his real talent is on the football field.
“I make quarterbacks disappear,’’ Morris joked.