BUFFALO — For Maurice Morris, today has been a long time coming.
“Six years,” the Seattle Seahawks’ running back said. “That’s definitely been a long time.”
That’s how many years Morris had to sit behind Shaun Alexander without any chance of supplanting the superstar as Seattle’s starting running back.
Now that Alexander is gone, and Morris has done enough to prove himself as a legitimate starter, the Seahawks will open the 2008 regular season at Buffalo with a new starting halfback.
“It’s a good way to get the season rolling,” Morris said. “Of course I’m going to go out there and play hard.”
Actually, the Seahawks like to say that they’re going into the 2008 season with two starting halfbacks. Former Dallas Cowboy Julius Jones should see plenty of action, and he might even start next week’s game as part of a rotating-starter system.
But today, Morris will take the field first to end Alexander’s six-year run as opening-day starter.
“He certainly earned it,” coach Mike Holmgren said. “He’s had a good camp.”
Morris has not strayed from his typical stoicism, but it’s pretty obvious to teammates that the seventh-year player is eager to get his chance as opening-day starter.
“Mo’s a different dude,” said backup quarterback Seneca Wallace, one of Morris’s closest friends on the team. “He’s quiet, obviously. I don’t think he’s the kind of guy that shows emotions a lot. But I know deep down inside, he’s excited.”
Despite Morris’s quiet nature, he is one of the most popular players on the team. Several Seahawks feel exalted that his day has finally arrived.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for him to showcase what he can do,” fullback Leonard Weaver said. “He’s been backing up a great back in Shaun, and he’s had some spurts and moments, but this is his time to show he can do the job.
“I’m very excited for him to get out there, run hard, make some plays and get up on the right foot.”
Even Holmgren admitted: “It’s a great story.”
For the first six years of his career, Morris has quietly served as Alexander’s backup. He started 16 games while the Pro Bowler was injured, but those were the only times when Morris’s role altered.
And yet, he never once grumbled about the situation.
“I’ve never heard him complain since I’ve been here — about not getting plays or whatever,” Weaver said. “He’s always been a quiet person. He’s always been the type of guy who comes prepared. Whatever he needs to do to do his job, he’s going to do it.”
Said Holmgren: “Mo has been a loyal soldier, if you will. And he played very well for us. This is not a handout. He’s played well, and he earned it. He’s been pretty unselfish for this team.”
Today, that selflessness will finally pay off.
“I always knew that he had the ability,” Wallace said. “It was just about getting the opportunity.”