As Guy Morriss enters his fifth year patrolling the Baylor sideline as head coach and second as offensive line coach, his transformation of the school's football fortunes has the Bears poised to take the next step and earn their first bowl bid since 1994.
Introduced as Baylor's 24th head football coach on Dec. 11, 2002, Morriss inherited a proud program that had fallen on hard times and produced just 13 victories in the six seasons (1997-2002) prior to his arrival. He and his staff have already posted more overall victories (15) and Big 12 wins (seven) than the Bears registered in the six previous years (13 overall/three Big 12). In fact, Morriss has directed Baylor to seven of its 11 all-time Big 12 victories and its only two league road wins in the conference's
The 2006 campaign saw Baylor win a school-record three Big 12 Conference games and produce the first two-time Ray Guy Award winner ever in Daniel Sepulveda, a consensus 2006 All-American on the field and an ESPN The Magazine first-team All-America pick in the classroom for the second consecutive year. Sepulveda was Baylor's first unanimous consensus All-America pick since 1986.
Redshirt linebacker Joe Pawelek earned first-team freshman All-America honors and was named the 2006 Associated Press Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, the first Bear ever to win an individual Big 12 AP football award. All-told, seven of Baylor's eight 2006 losses were at the hands of bowl-eligible teams and four were by 10 or fewer points. In addition, nine Bears received AT&T All-Big 12 honors from the league's coaches.
In Morriss' first four seasons in Waco, 31 Bears have earned all-conference recognition from the league's coaches and his staff has produced four of the program's six first-team selections, its only (Willie Andrews and Sepulveda) two-time first-team performers and its lone four-time selection in Sepulveda.
A school-record 18 Bears received 2006 Academic All-Big 12 honors, including a program-best 11 first-teamers. Baylor also produced multiple NFL Draftees for the first time since 1999, as Sepulveda (Pittsburgh Steelers, fourth round) and cornerback C.J. Wilson (Carolina Panthers, seventh round) heard their names called during the draft. Five Bears also signed NFL free agent contracts.
At the box office, Baylor football broke two attendance marks in 2006. A stadium-record crowd of 51,385 was on hand for the Bears' Oct. 28 game against Texas A&M and a record 259,559 fans passed through the Floyd Casey Stadium turnstiles to break the program's single-season total home attendance mark.
Under Morriss' leadership, the 2005 Bears fashioned the school's most successful season in a decade by posting a 5-6 record, the program's first five-win campaign since a 7-4 mark in 1995. Baylor came within a whisker of its season-long goal of reaching a bowl game for the first time since 1994, but it suffered two heartbreaking overtime losses on the road to dash its postseason hopes.
The 2005 campaign also saw Baylor post multiple Big 12 victories (2-6) in the same season for the first time in the league's history; finish fifth in the Big 12 South Division for the first time after nine years of sixth-place showings; and end road losing streaks of 24 games overall (with a season-opening victory over SMU) and 37 games in Big 12 play (with its first-ever Big 12 road win at Iowa State).
A then-school-record tying 14 players earned 2005 Academic All-Big 12 honors, including a then-program-record eight first-teamers. A school-record 12 Bears earned 2005 SBC All-Big 12 Conference honors from the coaches with Andrews, who went on to be drafted by the NFL's New England Patriots, becoming the program's first two-time first-team All-Big 12 coaches selection. Sepulveda became the first Bear since 1963 (and only the third ever) to earn academic and athletic All-America honors in the same season.
Baylor's 2005 on-field resurgence also showed at the box office, where it averaged 38,899 fans for its five 2005 home games, the program's highest single-season home average since 1995 and its sixth-highest mark all-time. Since Morriss' arrival in Waco, the Bears' attendance at Floyd Casey Stadium has increased nearly 25 percent from 28,018 in 2002 to the 37,080 they averaged in 2006.
Playing with the nation's second-youngest team in 2004, Morriss' second year saw Baylor post a 3-8 overall record and deliver one of the greatest victories in school history, as the unranked Bears knocked off No. 16 Texas A&M, 35-34, in overtime at Waco. That upset win, Baylor's first over the Aggies since 1985, ended both the Bears' 13-game losing and 18-game winless strings to its longtime rival from College Station. The A&M victory also marked BU's first over a nationally ranked opponent since 1998 (and first over a rated league foe since 1995), which snapped a 22-game skid to ranked teams.
The 2004 campaign also saw Sepulveda earn the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top collegiate punter and become only the third individual in program history to win a season-ending national college football award, joining Mike Singletary (two-time Davey O'Brien winner) and Thomas Everett (Thorpe Award). Sepulveda, who also became the first Bear to earn All-America honors on the gridiron since 1995, was one of two Baylor players (Andrews was the other) to garner 2004 first-team All-Big 12 honors from the league's coaches. Oklahoma (eight) and Texas (six) were the only schools with more first-team honorees than Baylor.
It marked just the second time in the Big 12's 10-year history that Baylor placed two student-athletes on the coaches' first team, and first since 1996. The 2005 NFL Draft saw the Kansas City Chiefs select DE Khari Long in the sixth round.
Known for his no-nonsense approach and aggressive recruiting, Morriss' Bears finished 3-9 in his rookie season. However, there were enough moments of youthful brilliance along the way to give Baylor's tradition-rich program hope for the future.
After dropping the first two games of the 2003 campaign, Baylor put together a three-game win streak highlighted by a 42-30 victory over two-time Big 12 North division champion Colorado in the Bears' league opener. The win string was BU's longest in some seven seasons and the Colorado triumph allowed Morriss to become just the third Baylor coach since 1950 (and only the sixth ever) to win his conference debut on the Bear sideline.
Morriss' first season also saw the Baylor defense limit then-No. 1 Oklahoma to a then-season-low 56 rushing yards (only national champion LSU held the Sooners to fewer yards on the ground) and register the sixth-highest one-season sack total (29) in school history and its best mark since 1994. The BU offense produced its first 1,000-yard rusher since 1995 in All-Big 12 running back Rashad Armstrong and its quarterbacks completed a then-school-record 56.7 percent of their passes, while the Bears' special team units recorded four scores.
Five Bears earned 2003 all-conference honors and three players participated in season-ending All-Star games, as did Morriss, who served as the head offensive coach for the Gray squad at the 2003 Blue-Gray All-Star Classic. He was joined on the Gray's sideline by center Cedric Fields.
In addition to the program's improvement on the field, it also continues to make strides in the classroom. Since the fall of 2003, Morriss' Bears have averaged a 2.46 semester grade-point average with a high mark of 2.64 for the spring 2007 term. An average of 38 football players since Morriss' arrival have been named to the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll which salutes student-athletes for achieving a 3.00 mark or better during each semester.
Off the field, Baylor's players continued to give back to the community by making numerous appearances at local schools and participating in several service projects throughout the area.
Morriss came to Waco from Lexington, Ky., where he spent the previous six seasons helping resurrect the Kentucky football program, the last two as the Wildcats' head coach.
At Kentucky, Morriss and his accomplished staff were credited with rebuilding Kentucky's relationships with high school coaches, as well as earning the respect of his players with a fair, no-nonsense approach. He beefed up the team's off-season conditioning by instituting stringent 6 a.m. workouts, designed to toughen the Wildcats physically and mentally.
In 2001, Morriss took over a Wildcat program in disarray. With NCAA probation looming in the school's immediate future, Morriss was introduced as Kentucky's head coach on Feb. 6, 2001, the day before national signing day, and began to stabilize the program.
Despite the inherent obstacles, Morriss confidently rallied the Wildcat players and staff. In his first season as a head coach in 2001, he guided UK to a 2-9 record, which included three losses by four points or fewer to Southeastern Conference opponents.
A season highlight included a 56-30 win at Vanderbilt that resulted in National Player of the Week honors for Wildcat quarterback Jared Lorenzen, who threw for 453 yards and six scores against the Commodores.
In the second half of the 2001 season, Kentucky led the SEC in passing offense (376 yards per game) and ranked third in total offense (456.2 per game) while scoring an average of 29.8 points.
Year two saw the fruits of Morriss' leadership become quickly evident. The 2002 Wildcats turned some heads with a 7-5 record, including wins over Mississippi State, eventual SEC West Division champion Arkansas and 17th-ranked Louisville. The Wildcats, who received votes in the Associated Press Top 25, recorded the program's fifth seven-win campaign since 1955. UK's defeats included a four-pointer against South Carolina, a seven-point loss at then-No. 7 Florida and an unbelievable three-point setback on the game's final play to then-No. 17 LSU.
In Morriss' two seasons as Kentucky's head coach, 10 Wildcats earned All-SEC recognition, three were named All-American and 43 garnered academic All-SEC honors. In addition, three players were selected in the NFL Draft, including Dewayne Robertson, a 2003 first-round pick of the New York Jets and the first Kentucky defender taken in the first round since Art Still's 1978 selection by the Kansas City Chiefs. In his six seasons all-told in Lexington, four Kentucky offensive linemen were selected first-team all-conference and three earned freshman All-America honors.
The Wildcats ranked in the nation's top 20 in passing offense five of Morriss' six years with the program and in the nation's top 15 in total offense in three of those seasons. In 1996, the year before Morriss' arrival, Kentucky finished 109th nationally in total offense.
Morriss spent four seasons as Kentucky's assistant head coach and offensive line coach before being promoted to head coach. During his time as an assistant, the Wildcats twice earned bowl invitations and their offense scored more points and generated more yards than any previous four-year period in school history.
Recognized as an outstanding teacher of line play, Morriss began his coaching career as an offensive line assistant coach with the New England Patriots from 1988 to 1989 under head coach and NFL Hall of Famer Raymond Berry. He was the offensive coordinator at Mansfield (Texas) High School in 1991. Morriss was then selected as the head coach of the Washington Marauders of the Professional Spring Football League in 1992, but the league ceased operations prior to the start of the season.
From 1992 to 1993, he coached the offensive line at Valdosta State (Ga.) University before returning to the NFL in 1994 as a member of Buddy Ryan's Arizona Cardinals staff. Morriss then spent the 1995 campaign with the Canadian Football League's San Antonio Texans, where he worked with former Baylor defensive coordinator Bill Bradley. That year, San Antonio was second in the CFL in points scored and advanced to the semifinals of the Grey Cup playoffs.
Prior to his Kentucky tenure, Morriss spent one season at Mississippi State, where he coached the offensive line in 1996. Bulldogs' offensive tackle Brent Smith garnered first-team All-SEC honors and was a second-round draft selection by the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
Morriss first made headlines in the Lone Star state as an All-Southwest Conference guard at TCU. A three-year letterwinner for the Horned Frogs, Morriss was a two-time All-SWC performer (second team as a junior in 1971 and first team in 1972) who started 28 games in his collegiate career. Following his final collegiate season, he played in four all-star games -- the Blue-Gray Game, the Senior Bowl, the Coaches' All-America Game and the College All-Star Game. Morriss captained the Horned Frogs in his senior year and was inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.
A 1973 TCU graduate (secondary education), Morriss was a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles who went on to play 11 seasons at center for the franchise. He helped the Eagles to four consecutive playoff berths (1978-82) under legendary coach Dick Vermeil, including NFC East Division crowns in 1979 and 1980, and was a starter on the organization's 1980 NFC championship team that played in Super Bowl XV. Morriss, an Eagles' team captain for five seasons, was selected to the 1981 All-Pro team.
From 1984 to 1987 Morriss played for the New England Patriots, helping Berry's team to playoff appearances in 1985 and 1986. He was a member of the Patriots' 1985 AFC championship squad and played in Super Bowl XX.
When the 2004 Super Bowl was played in Houston, The Dallas Morning News named Morriss to its All-Texas High School Super Bowl Team. He is the only active NCAA Division I-A coach to have played in the Super Bowl.
Morriss and his wife Jackie are the parents of five daughters: Colleen, Melanie, Kerry, Savannah Rae and Austin Leigh. The couple also has four grandchildren -- Colin, Aidan, Kade and Kyleigh.
THE GUY MORRISS FILE
PERSONAL Born: May 13, 1951 Birthplace: Colorado City, Texas High School: Sam Houston (Arlington, Texas), 1969 College: TCU, 1973 (secondary education) Wife: Jackie Children: Colleen, Melanie, Kerry, Savannah Rae and Austin Leigh
1966-68: Sam Houston High School, TE
1969-72: TCU, OG/TE (All-SWC guard, 1971 & 1972)
1973-83: Philadelphia Eagles, OL (Super Bowl 1981; All-Pro 1981)
1984-87: New England Patriots, OL (Super Bowl 1986)
Coaching Experience 1988-89: New England (NFL), offensive line 1991: Mansfield (Texas) H.S., offensive coordinator 1992: Washington (PSFL), head coach 1992-93: Valdosta State, offensive line 1994: Arizona (NFL), offensive line 1995: San Antonio (CFL), offensive line 1996: Mississippi State, offensive line 1997-2000: Kentucky, assistant head coach/offensive line 2001-02: Kentucky, head coach 2003-present: Baylor, head coach
Postseason Experience 1978 NFL Playoffs (player) 1979 NFL Playoffs (player) 1980 NFL Playoffs (player), Super Bowl XV 1981 NFL Playoffs (player) 1985 NFL Playoffs (player), Super Bowl XX 1986 NFL Playoffs (player) 1995 CFL Playoffs (coach) 1999 Outback Bowl (coach) 1999 Music City Bowl (coach) 2003 Blue-Gray All-Star Classic (coach)