TU alumnus Michael Morris ’18 to compete for U.S. Olympic roster spot during reality television competition
Since he was 13 years old, Towson University alumnus Michael Morris ’18 wanted to be a professional athlete. Now almost decade later, the Long Island, N.Y., native is taking his biggest step to realizing that dream.
Morris will be one of just 90 athletes to compete on the second season of Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful, a reality television show that gives athletes a chance to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic Roster.
As part of the show, which will air on NBC and NBC Sports later this year, Morris will travel to the U.S. Olympic Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Co. to train for five days beginning July 27 with coaches from eight Olympic Teams — including rugby, canoe, bobsled, boxing, cycling, rowing, skeleton and weightlifting.
The competition started with over 4,000 applicants and will crown just eight winners — four men and four women. Now after years of dreaming of being a professional athlete, Morris will have a chance to represent his country.
“I got the e-mail (that said he was accepted) and I was just overwhelmed with emotion,” Morris said. “It’s not done yet and it’s just another step on a long journey. But it’s hard not to look at this and say, ‘Wow look at how far we’ve come.’”
Before taking his athletic talents to the Olympic stage, Morris originally came to Towson University to play football as a tight end and long snapper. But after one semester, he felt it wasn’t working out and focused on making his athletic dreams happen in other ways.
While training on the field where the Towson University Rugby Team practices, Morris was approached by the team’s coaches to see if he would be interested in playing. After having a “break-up” with football, he thought the move to rugby could be a seamless transition.
“I played soccer for 11 years, wrestled for 10 years and played football for seven years, and rugby is kind of a combination of all three,” Morris said. “I didn’t know the rules when I started, but in the first game I ever played I scored. That first year really got the ball rolling.”
Morris was part of the Towson University Rugby team for his entire four-year college career and credits his teammates and coaches for pushing him to be better, training harder and providing a positive collegiate experience.
He’s hoping his time with the TU Rugby team will help him start a professional rugby career in Major League Rugby. Before he participated in Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful, Morris took part in two training sessions in Colorado — one with the Collegiate All-American 7s team, and one with the Vail Rugby Club.
During these training sessions, Morris competed against some of top collegiate players in the country, as well as those who have played both professionally and for the U.S. Rugby team.
With the level of competition rising, Morris understands that his level of training had to rise as well. That’s why during his training he adopted a quote from Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice as his mantra. The quote simply says “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.”
“That’s what I tell myself when I don’t want to train or (want to)eat junk food,” Morris said. “It took a lot of time a commitment to get here. I’m always trying to correct myself and make myself a little better.”
Morris graduated in the spring of 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education — which he admits was an easy major to choose because of his love of sports. And along with pursuing a professional and Olympic rugby career, Morris was also recently hired as a physical education teacher at Edgewood Middle School in Harford County, Md.
In the future, he plans to go back to school to earn a master’s degree in administration to one day become a principal and superintendent. And just as he credits his coaches for his success on the rugby field, he credits working with professors like Tabatha Uhrich, Ph.D. for getting hired so quickly out of college.
“TU’s Physical Education Department prepared me to be a teacher,” Morris said. “They are very professional and work very hard at turning their students into the best that they can be, and they pushed me to be the best I can be.”
And while Morris has worked hard for his success both on the rugby field and in the classroom, he also points to his strong support system at home for continuing to push and encourage him. He’s also quick to admit if it wasn’t for his parents and brother Brett, he wouldn’t be where he is today.
“My family has been there for everything I could have asked for,” Morris said. “I want to give that support to the rest of the world. My family taught me special lessons that put a special light in me that makes me want to share it with others.”