Must-see moment:

Shutdown Corner

Outside the Game: Alfred Morris goes from humble beginnings to the top of the NFL

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

Few expected him to walk away with the franchise records for carries and rushing yards by a rookie, but Washington Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris always believed he could make it in the NFL. He's proven the doubters right with an amazing season in which he's already toted the rock 253 times for 1,228 yards and seven touchdowns. In conjunction with fellow rookie Robert Griffin III, Morris is a key cog in one of the NFL's most exciting and diverse offenses -- an offense that has the 7-6 Redskins looking for their first playoff berth since 2007.

He's high profile now, but when he goes back to his hometown of Pensacola, Fla., he's just "Fred" to the people who know him there.

"I'm glad I didn't grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth, because I wouldn't appreciate things," Morris recently told Yahoo! Sports. "I don't think I would have the work ethic I do have -- that determination and drive."

Humble to a fault, Morris still sleeps on the couch when he goes home.

"It's a pretty comfortable couch," Morris says, adding that he does so by choice.

The rookie has no question where his drive to succeed comes from -- born into a family with six brothers and strong parents, Morris learned early on that a competitive spirit was a must.

There was always a lot of competition with so many boys in the house," he said. "Going outside and playing football, basketball ... I'm so thankful to have that."

Not everybody saw that spirit -- Morris' high school coach thought he might be "too nice" to succeed in football.

"I was a first-team, all-state linebacker, but I didn't want to take people's heads off in practice. You want to prepare for the game, but you have to make it through the game."

When Morris did get a shot at the collegiate level, he had to do his thing at Florida Atlantic, a relatively unheralded school. Though he gained more than 3,500 yards in college, he wasn't selected until the sixth round of the NFL draft, and he might not have been taken at all were it not for a strong week at the East-West Shrine Game. But Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, who's made a career of turning low-rated backs into NFL stars, was waiting to pick him off in what's become a very impressive draft class for the Redskins.

[Related: NFL Skinny: Week 15 preview]

"I knew my chances of getting drafted were going to be slim and none," he recalled. "Florida Atlantic wasn't a big program, but I had confidence in myself."

Morris also said that the Redskins were already his favorite team, so hearing his name called was an "awesome experience." However, playing for the rookie minimum of $390,000 means that he has to educate some people on the realities of NFL finances for those who aren't seen as glamorous right out of the box.

"It's definitely a misconception that we're all millionaires. I still drive the same car I had my last year of college -- a 1991 Mazda 626 -- and I love it. I call it my baby."

Morris also knows that the NFL is a short-term thing for most players, especially running backs.

[Related: Steelers suspend running back Rashard Mendenhall for one game]

"The NFL isn't a career -- it's an experience. Most careers last 40-50 years, and people grow old in them. I want to play as long as possible, and I see my career going 12-plus years. I've learned that it's no ability that will keep you in the NFL -- it's durability. And that's one of the things I definitely pride myself on -- being durable."

Right now, Alfred Morris has ability and durability. Plus, he's riding shotgun in an offense that can beat any team on any given week. For a guy from such humble beginnings, things are looking pretty bright for Morris. He's someone who hasn't forgotten where he comes from -- and what it's taken to get here.

Fantasy advice from the Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Minute:

Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
Win-now edicts spurring flurry of desperate deals across MLB
Jason Kidd hits controversial game-winner to push Knicks past Nets
One-handed hoops player a budding superstar at Georgia powerhouse
Y! News: Key ingredient in beer may help treat the common cold

View Comments (44)