Few positions in organized sports attract more cheers — and jeers — than quarterback. At almost any level of football, the field general is counted on to examine the defense, select the proper play and then execute to perfection.
Pure athletic ability is often not enough, as the quality of the opposition continues to improve. At that point, proper training and coaching can often make the difference between victory and defeat.
David Morris knows both the ups and downs of the game. Despite being a record-setting quarterback at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile and earning honorable mention All-American recognition from USA Today, Morris had no scholarship offers from major colleges.
Determined he could perform at the next level, Morris walked on at Ole Miss. Hard work helped him to secure the back-up position to Romero Miller. After an injury forced Miller to the bench, Morris was called upon to start against arch rival Mississippi State on ESPN. The Bulldogs won and advanced to the SEC championship game. But Morris had answered his critics, becoming perhaps the only true freshman walk-on to ever start a SEC game.
Unfortunately, it would be his last time to start in college. A new player eventually took over as the Rebels’ quarterback, and would not give up the job. He was two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning, who ended up as Morris’ roommate and longtime friend.
After earning four varsity letters and his bachelor’s degree in 2002, Morris returned to Mobile. He began working with his father, Skeeter Morris, in the real estate business. He kept his hand in football, by giving private lessons when called upon.
“I fell in love with football at an early age,” Morris said. “I just never thought it would be a profession.”
Thanks to his growing reputation as a coach, Morris began getting more clients.
“My role had become reversed, and I was getting a lot of referrals,” Morris said. “Word got around, and I started seeing people from longer distances away.”
He sought the advice of David Cutcliffe, his former mentor at Ole Miss and current head coach at Duke. Cutcliffe agreed there was a market for personalized instruction.
“Then I thought that maybe I could do this for a living, but I didn’t know how,” Morris said. “It took me five years to come up with the correct model (for coaching quarterbacks).”
What he produced is QB Country, a company that is quickly gaining fame. Morris was recently featured in the New York Daily News, despite his low-key approach to promotions.
“We have earned our clients by word of mouth and not a ton of advertising,” Morris said. “We mostly use Twitter and Facebook. It has been a real grassroot effort.”
Morris breaks down his workouts into one-hour sessions. He starts with lower body warm-ups, to get the heart pumping and the mind right. “It can get pretty intense,” Morris said.
Then he switches to warm-ups specific to quarterbacks in game situations, followed by footwork and arm maneuvers. A variety of drills is next, and then finally a lesson unique for that particular session.
“There is a lot to do in an hour, but we move at a quick pace.”
One of his early students was a high school player named AJ McCarron. Now that he has gone on to lead the University of Alabama to a pair of national titles, McCarron is calling on Morris again to prepare him for the upcoming NFL Combine.
Morris, who has also helped train such NFL quarterbacks as Tim Tebow and Matt Barkley, keeps a full schedule throughout the year. He said during busy months, he might work with up to 65 quarterbacks a week.
“We do not do big groups,” Morris said. “We limit it to three or four quarterbacks at a time. You must critique on fundamentals that are specific to each player.”
His system is definitely working. According to its website (http://qbcountry.com), 10 quarterbacks in this current class have received offers from Division I schools.
This success may become more common as QB Country grows. Morris has signed an agreement with D1 Sports, which joins with celebrity athletes to operate training locations throughout the United States.
“D1 Sports has great indoor facilities, with 40 to 60 yards of turf,” Morris said. “Finding the right place to have drills has been the hardest part of growing my business.
“Now that I am teaming with D1 Sports, they said I can use their facilities and they will promote my classes.”
In addition to Mobile, QB Country is currently located in four cities. The newest site is Birmingham, which opened earlier this month. The other locations are in Nashville and Jackson, Miss.
Another member of the Mobile staff is Thomas Morris, a younger brother who also played quarterback at McGill-Toolen. In addition to helping on the field, he is in charge of the website, video production and client recruiting.
“We hope to expand across the country, adding three or four cities each year,” David Morris said. “I am looking at Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina and Florida. We just have to find the right coaches to fit into our program.”
QB Country makes a point to never contradict what a player’s team coach tells them to do.
“We have good relations with most high schools in Mobile,” Morris said. “If a coach teaches something different, we say do it their way. What we do is compliment what high school coaches are teaching.”
Even with his many years of experience, Morris knows he can help some players only to a certain point. That will not stop him from trying his best.
It may be a tough conversation, telling someone they are likely cut out for another position. And yet because of his experiences as a player, no one is better qualified to give them a fair and honest assessment than Morris.
“I have always been an optimist. I believe in all of them,” Morris said. “We will give everyone an opportunity. But I will also tell them if it is not going to work.”