Morris, Dorman look to ‘stick to the task’
By Jed Blackwell
ROEBUCK – One of the first things you notice on the way to Jake Morris’ new office, and once you’re inside, are two remnants of Dorman’s football past.
One, perched just behind his desk, is a photo taken the first Saturday in December, 2009. Morris, a senior that day, and his teammates are celebrating Dorman’s second football state championship.
The other is tucked in the hallway, on a bronze plaque dedicated to former Dorman coach and legendary athletic director Dale Evans. The administrator who’s credited for much of Dorman’s athletic success, Evans brought Hall of Fame coach after Hall of Fame coach to the west side, and later to Roebuck. But first, he brought a poem, ingrained to second nature into those who donned Columbia and Navy, and those who pulled on football pads in particular.
“Stick to the task, until it sticks to you.
Beginners are many, enders are few.
Honor, glory, power, and praise
Always goes to the one who stays.
Stick to the task, until it sticks to you.
Bend with it, sweat with it, smile with it,too.
For out of the bend, the sweat, and the smile
Will come life’s victories after a while.
Morris fully intends to take Dorman back to the success of that photo. And he intends to implement the will of the poem to do it.
Morris is Dorman’s third head football coach in as many seasons, after the retirement of the legendary Dave Gutshall and the departure of Dustin Curtis, who resigned to take the head job at Lexington, his alma mater.
“I get the uncertainty these guys feel,” Morris said. “I had three head coaches at North Greenville, three offensive line coaches, three offensive coordinators. I told the guys the first time I talked to them as a team that we’re going back to Coach Evans’ poem. We’re going to stick to the task. We have a task laid out in front of us, and we’re going to stick to it. Being a part of this team, and this school, and this community is bigger than one coach and one position. We have to carry the tradition no matter who sits behind this desk.”
For Morris, the job is a realization of a childhood dream, and something that clearly means a lot to him.
“This was a dream growing up, and being here, playing under Coach Gutshall, coming back and coaching under Coach Gutshall and all the other guys I played with and I’ve coached with, it’s just a dream come true,” Morris said. “The old saying is that you bleed blue. Well, we bleed blue. This is where I played, and where I grew up. My whole family – my sisters both graduated from here. My nephews and nieces graduated. My daughter’s coming through this district. It’s really humbling, but it’s something I don’t take lightly. I’ve got a lot of pride for this place, a lot of pride for this community and for these kids. It’s pretty surreal.”
One thing that’s helped Morris adapt quickly is the presence of some longtime assistants in the program, along with the advice of Gutshall. Morris said he leans on both heavily.
“It’s a lot. It’s a big program,” Morris said. “But he did such a good job when he was here and when I worked under him – not only me but all of his assistants – preparing us for our dream, for what we wanted to do. He’s done that for me, and he’s prepared me. A lot of times I pick the phone up and ask him questions. It’s been good. I’m kind of learning on the fly. But I’m surrounded here by great coaches who go above and beyond helping me and pouring advice into me all the time.”
It also helps that he’s surrounded by a number of former teammates and by several others who are Dorman alumni, or Dorman lifers.
“We’ve got a lot,” Morris said. “That’s one of the things Coach Gutshall taught me: there’s a right way, a wrong way, and the Dorman way. You always want to hire guys who know that way, who know how to do that. Malcolm Boyd’s been tremendous. We played together here, he was an All-American offensive lineman in college, and probably had a chance to go on to play in the League if he hadn’t had a leg injury. He’s helped me a ton, and done an awful lot of things for this program. You’ve got Daniel Wyatt, and I don’t think you can look at a Dorman team and not find a Wyatt on the roster. He’s been tremendous, too. He’s a shoulder to lean on, and he’s been here through a lot of good talent. Charone Peake is back with us, and he’s done a phenomenal job. He knows how things work and has a unique way of building relationships with kids. Jordan Thompson played running back for us in the state championship game in 2009, and he’s back coaching for us. We try to put those guys in position and bring them back to coach because they know how it works. They know how this community works, they know how this school works. They can really just pour into people and help out a lot. Clayton Worthy came back this year. He was head track coach at Byrnes, and coached football for a little bit here under coach Gutshall before he left to do it, and we brought him back. He’s a Dorman guy through and through as well. Guys like Walt Canty and Eric Bomar have played here and are coaching here, and they know what we’re about and what we want to do. Having those guys who know this place that you can lean on is huge. It really is.”
Having Gutshall to answer some questions has been something Morris has enjoyed in his transition to the head coaching job – and some of the things he didn’t know that he didn’t know.
“It’s never easy,” he laughed. “Every day brings its own set of circumstances, problems, and rewards. There’s something that I’m learning every single day. The football part is the easy part of it. It’s the day to day, the communication, the fact the phone never stops. That’s one of the things I asked Coach, how he did this for 29 years because the phone NEVER stops ringing. He just laughed and said ‘well, welcome to the big time’.”
A 5A job is definitely the big time, but Morris has a firm vision of where the Cavaliers need to be, and of what they need to be doing along the way.
We’re still going to be Dorman,” he said. “We haven’t gone anywhere, and we’re not going to go anywhere. We’re going to continue with the success we’ve had, and hopefully build on that success and have even more success. We always want to play on that first Saturday in December, and I’m always going to believe that we have a chance to do that. On the field, that’s my expectation. That’s what we’re going to do. But more than that, we’re going to develop men, and we’re going to push people out of this program better than we found them. That’s our number one goal. And I believe that if you take care of that aspect of it, those wins and losses will fall into place.”