BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Coaching staff likes what they see in strong player, leader

CORVALLIS — In his 24 years as head coach at Sherwood High, Greg Lawrence has coached a number of outstanding players.

David Morris stands alone at the top of the list.

"Without a doubt, David is our No. 1," Lawrence says. "Just the way he played both sides of the ball, the energy he brought, the athletic ability he possessed. He was phenomenal."MORRIS

Oregon State coaches have quickly learned to appreciate the safety, who will gain the first start of his college career Saturday when the Beavers (1-2) visit Martin Stadium for their Pac-12 opener against 21st-ranked Washington State (2-0).

"I like everything about David Morris," OSU coach Gary Andersen says. "He's a talented young man with a high football IQ for a true freshman. I'm really excited about where he's at and how good he will be when he has a chance to develop."

The 6-2 1/2, 205-pound Morris came off the bench to make 17 tackles in Oregon State's 48-14 loss to Minnesota last Saturday.

"It felt good to get out there and give it all I got with my teammates," Morris says. "I have to get better every week, though."

Morris was the Class 6A Defensive Player of the Year and a second-team all-state running back as a senior last year for the Bowmen.

"He was super to coach," Lawrence says. "A lot of times, the best players are not the best leaders, but he was a good player and a good leader. Every day, David brought it to practice, brought energy, brought enthusiasm. He's the one who got his teammates motivated. When they were down, he'd pick everybody up. He was that kid everybody looked to."

David says he had a good role model in older brother Cristian, a first-team all-state running back at Sherwood as a senior who helped the Bowmen to a pair of 6A titles during his time there. Cristian went on to play wide receiver at Idaho State.

"Just watching him and being around him was my biggest influence," David says. "Ever since he went to a D-I program, it was my goal to have multiple D-I scholarship offers. I achieved that. My next goal is to be the best here, and maybe go to the next level."

Morris fielded about a dozen early scholarship offers from FBS programs, whittled his list to Washington State and California and then picked Oregon State during the spring of his junior year at Sherwood.

"Oregon came in late, the day after I committed to Oregon State," Morris says. "I'd already made my decision by then."

Too bad for the Ducks, because they were Morris' team as a youth.

"We had no ties to Oregon State," he says. "We actually were Duck fans as I was growing up. That changed when I was in high school, and we turned all my family from both sides into Beaver fans. As soon as I committed, then we started getting all the gear. Now everyone's a Beaver fan."

Oregon State was the first school to offer Morris a ride.

"They were the first ones to believe in me," Morris says. "That meant a ton to me. From there, they were always there in the back of my head."

The biggest factor?

"It was honestly the coaches," Morris says. "They came with such a genuine approach with me. I had some trouble with some other coaches. They played games with me, and I didn't like it.

"The coaches here were honest with me. That's what I loved about it. Plus, it's close to home and I could see myself here for the next four or five years."

Andersen is glad for that.

"David was an awesome young man to recruit," he says. "From the get-go, he was excited about Oregon State. After he committed, he stayed right there. There were a lot of (coaches from other schools) speaking to him through his senior year as he continued to show what he could do. It kept me up at night, because I thought he was a special talent. Now I know he's a special talent.

"I was happy when his (letter-of-intent) papers came through. It was a big relief."

Morris' goal was to make an immediate impact.

"I didn't want to redshirt," he says. "I wanted to come in and play right away. I worked hard and got the results I wanted. Now it's a matter of continuing to work hard to get better.

"The first two games, I felt like I could have done better. I played pretty well against Minnesota, but there's always plenty of room for improvement. I have to get in the (video) room, study and strive to be the best."

Four games into his career, Morris breaks into the starting lineup for the first time.

"It means a lot," he says. "It's a lot of pressure on my back, but good pressure. It's pushing me to get better. I want to make sure I do what's best for my team and for Beaver Nation."

Lawrence says he is not surprised by Morris' quick ascent.

"David could cover people, but he could also come downhill and make tackles at the line of scrimmage," the Sherwood coach says. "He has a nose for the football. His frame is perfect for his position. I had a pretty good feeling he would play a lot as a freshman."

Morris is an athlete — he started in basketball as a freshman and sophomore before devoting more time to football — with sprinter's speed. He ran the 100 in 11.2 as a senior and anchored the Bowmen's short relay team. Morris has run the 40 in 4.58.

Though he is not happy with the results in the first three games, Morris continues to have faith.

"I feel we are going to come together," he says. "We played well in the first half against Minnesota. In the second half, we came out sluggish. We didn't execute what we needed to do.

"We can't put our heads down. We have to stay together as a team. It's a matter of staying disciplined, listening to our coaches and playing good football. It's about believing in the system, believing in the coaches, believing in ourselves and what we can do here."

Incidentally, there's another Morris coming down the pike — third-grader Jayden, the youngest of the five children.

"Jayden is going to be better than both Cristian and me," David says with a smile. "I'm hyped to see that. It's crazy how good he is."

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