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Blue savant a scouting prodigy

Brass in awe of Morris’ knack for knowledge ... and he’s just 24

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/6/2014 (1158 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

He’s got the grand total of two years of experience working in pro football and is, at the tender age of 24, the youngest member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers brain trust.

And yet ask around the much older and wiser corners of the Bombers front office and they speak with a mix of awe and incredulousness about the encyclopedic football knowledge of the club’s director of scouting, Drew Morris.

Bombers director of scouting Drew Morris, right  with Bombers assistant GM Danny McManus  at practice Thursday morning at Investors Group Field.


Bombers director of scouting Drew Morris, right with Bombers assistant GM Danny McManus at practice Thursday morning at Investors Group Field.

"His retention is unbelievable and his knowledge of players is unbelievable," Bombers GM Kyle Walters said Thursday.

"We’ll be sitting in a staff meeting and some obscure player’s name will come up and someone will have a question about the guy’s birthday or something trivial like that. And, rightly or wrongly, the whole table will turn and look at Drew for those quirky little stats that nobody else knows.

"He’s the guy that knows that stuff. It’s kind of strange. Weird. Even kind of creepy, you know what I mean?"

Now, it’s not generally considered advisable to have your boss think you’re weird and creepy — unless of course your entire job entails command of a set of facts and figures so diverse and miniscule that remembering them all almost requires a fringe personality.

All of which is to say that Morris is so good at his job precisely because he is kind of, well, how about we call him a ‘savant?’

"I love this job — this is what I do all the time," said Morris Thursday. "When I’m at home in Milwaukee, I’ve got two computer screens set up, watching film and writing reports and just looking for guys.

"My biggest fear is that players are going to show up on a transaction report and I don’t know them. I want to be able to know that I didn’t think that guy was good enough for us. I can’t have that guy show up on a report and wonder, ‘Who was that guy?’

"I want to know every guy and have eyes on every guy. And on my Excel spreadsheets, if a guy isn’t highlighted in a certain colour, that means I’ve got to get guys on him and see what he’s about."

Weird? Yeah, probably a little.

A native of Wisconsin, Morris got his big break in football two years ago. A pre-law undergraduate at Indiana, Morris got an internship in 2012 with the scouting department of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons thanks to a relationship his father had with a Falcons staffer.

While he got his big break through nepotism, Morris took full advantage of it, impressing everyone around him with an unwavering work ethic and attention to detail.

When the internship ended last summer, Morris picked up some glowing recommendations and the mentorship of former CFL executive Dan Rambo, a scouting pioneer of sorts who is the architect of a computer program widely used by football scouts.

Rambo, in turn, recommended Morris to former Bombers GM Joe Mack when Mack called up Rambo last August looking for someone to scout some NFL training camps on behalf of the Bombers.

The rest is history. Mack was fired shortly after Morris was hired and while the Bombers subsequently shed or fired almost all former vestiges of the Mack regime, Morris was not only kept on, he was promoted by Mack’s successor, Walters.

While he is shockingly young to hold the influential position he does in a sport that places a premium on experience and paying your dues, Morris thinks his youth actually works to his advantage as he tries to track and grade every single player in the NFL, CFL and Arena Football League.

"I’m a younger guy, I’m not married, I don’t have kids — this is literally all I do," said Morris, describing endless hours of cross-referencing combine reports with game film in search of the overlooked diamond in all that rough.

Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea says Morris has proven to be an invaluable resource to the Bombers.

"He has great recall and in the scouting world, recall is very important. He can remember what a guy ran or something about them — that quality that tips the scale either for or against a player," said O’Shea.

"He’s a wealth of information for such a young guy. And that’s what people marvel at — how can he have so much information at such a young age? It’s his passion, he takes it all in and he loves doing his job."

Walters describes Morris in such glowing terms you have to wonder if it’s the scout — and not the players he’s found — who is the greatest find so far of this new Bombers regime.

"All I think when I see his age is all the upside to the guy," said Walters. "Wait until this guy gets some experience. He works so hard and cares so much and look what he’s already done.

"Just wait until he gets a couple years under his belt."

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Read more by Paul Wiecek.


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