Tech legend Larry Morris dies

(Updated with print version)

As he remembered it, Frank Broyles’ first day of work as a Georgia Tech assistant football coach in 1951 was also the same day that Larry Morris first practiced with the Yellow Jackets. They were two Decatur Boys High grads trying to impress coach Bobby Dodd.

Said Broyles, later head coach and athletic director at Arkansas and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, “He immediately showed that he could play college ball just as he could high school.”

Over the next four seasons, Morris only surpassed that first impression. Morris died Wednesday at the age of 79, his place as an all-time great in Tech history firmly in place.

“As a player and as a human being, he was one of the best,” said Pepper Rodgers, a teammate and later a Tech coach.

The Morris playing résumé paints a broad picture of his dominance. A four-year starter and a two-way player at center and linebacker, Morris was three times first-team All-SEC and a team captain as a senior. He was a bright star during the peak years for Dodd, when the Jackets had a 40-5-2 record over Morris’ four seasons, won two SEC titles, four bowl games and a share of the 1952 national championship with a 12-0 record.

“He was quiet and always trying to please and do his part without being a standout or trying to show off,” Broyles said. “He was very much a team player and he encouraged everybody by the way he practiced and played.”

Playing alongside George Morris (no relation), he was a punishing linebacker, agile, smart and full of fury. As a Jacket, he may have been at his best in his final game against rival Georgia, on a rain-soaked field in Athens. He played the whole game and was credited with 24 tackles as Tech held off the Bulldogs 7-3 on Nov. 27, 1954.

“The entire Tech team had to play inspired football to win this one but victory would not have been possible without one Larry Morris, who played the defensive game of his career,” wrote Harry Mehre, the former Georgia coach who later was a football analyst for the Atlanta Journal. “Morris was everywhere, including rushing the passer. He stopped plays over the middle, off the tackles and around ends.”

He was later named to the All-SEC 25-year team spanning 1950-1974 and in 1992 was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, one of 12 Tech players to be enshrined. A Decatur native, he is one of the best players the state of Georgia has ever produced, a standout at the high school, college and pro levels. The seventh overall pick of the 1955 NFL draft, Morris played 12 seasons for the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears and Falcons. He was the MVP of the 1963 NFL championship game for the Bears. He was known as “the Brahma Bull.”

`“One tough guy,” said Dick Inman, a teammate of Morris’ and a member of his wedding. “He had no fear on the football field and basically he was kind of a gentle person.”

Morris, married to wife Kay for 55 years, went on to success in insurance and real estate. In 1980, the NCAA gave Morris one of its highest honors with a Silver Anniversary Award, given to former athletes for their achievements in college and in the 25 years since the end of their college playing days.

“When they were on top, they were very giving people,” Inman said.

However, perhaps due to the brute force Morris both delivered and received over dozens of games and hundreds of practices, dementia captured his later years. A 2007 AJC column by Furman Bisher said that Morris had showed advanced signs of the disease in the 90’s, and that he was unable to carry on a lucid conversation. Care for Morris and poor business decisions blamed on the dementia wrecked the family’s finances.

Said Inman, “He has had a long struggle.”

70 comments Add your comment

Smyrna Gold

December 21st, 2012
11:52 am

As a teenager, Larry Morris was was one of my idols, along with Hardeman, Tease, Mitchell, et al.

carolinajacket

December 21st, 2012
11:54 am

God bless you Larry. Rest in peace.

5150 UOAD

December 21st, 2012
12:02 pm

Sad to hear he finally passed. It has been extremely tough on his family the last few years while he was in the home. He just didn’t remember people or things from his life anymore. He was such a good man. He would help coach some of the teams his son Chan played on at NYO @ Chastain Park. He will always be fondly remembered.

Bulldog86_63

December 21st, 2012
12:10 pm

Sorry for your loss.

www

December 21st, 2012
12:13 pm

he played center AND linebacker?

interesting combination. i don’t think we’ll see someone play those two positions again at a high level.

Full Metal Jacket

December 21st, 2012
12:21 pm

He was one of, if not the, best football Jacket ever. It is a mixed blessing, since his later years were so unkind to him and his family, but he left a wonderful legacy. Damn Good Jacket. Rest in Peace.

GSU 80

December 21st, 2012
12:24 pm

He went up to scrimmage with Franklin Brooks and Ray Allan

gt4ever

December 21st, 2012
12:35 pm

Hell of a Football player, may he rest in Peace!

gt4ever

December 21st, 2012
12:36 pm

@GSU 80

That was one hell of a trio!

They don’t make players like that anymore…

Texstinger

December 21st, 2012
12:37 pm

A GREAT player, as well as student and businessman.

This state is better off for him having passed our way.

Blessings to the family and friends.

Thank you, Mr. Morris. R.I.P.

Full Metal Jacket

December 21st, 2012
12:43 pm

One just hopes the next AD will have an appreciation of the greatness of players like Morris and the teams they played on, and will take inspiration from that to re-invigorate the football program. As the old guard of Dodd’s era slowly fades, I wish we’d stop playing “small ball” on the field, in recruiting, and on the national scene. Condolescences to the Morris family, and best wishes to every Jacket for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Mark

December 21st, 2012
12:44 pm

Had the opportunity to meet Mr. Morris shortly after his MVP performance in the NFL Championship game for the Bears. A very gracious man and one of the truly great Georgia Tech stars. My sincere condolences to his family and friends – a great loss for the City of Atlanta and State of Georgia.

Old Fashioned

December 21st, 2012
12:57 pm

I don’t believe he was 89. Probably your math is wrong. I think he was about my age since he was freshman in 1951 when I was sophomore. 79 perhaps?

5150 UOAD

December 21st, 2012
1:13 pm

Yes Larry was born in 1933 so he was 79.

Gene

December 21st, 2012
1:32 pm

Those were great GT teams, and Morris was a great player. I recall him playing a year or two with the Falcons. I didn’t think Larry was still playing into his 50’s.

Big C

December 21st, 2012
1:52 pm

GT Great! May you rest in peace!

Brookhaven

December 21st, 2012
1:53 pm

I got to know his son when he was playing for Auburn. Great player for AU and a great guy as well. Condolences to the Morris family. God speed, Larry.

PS

December 21st, 2012
1:59 pm

WWW, yes he played center and linebacker at Tech and he was great at both. When I was growing up, he was my favorite Tech player Almost everybody played both ways back then due to rules restricting substitutions. A piece of trivia; Chuck Bednarik played both center and linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles just a few years later. I believe that he was the last NFL player to play on both sides of the ball full time. One has to wonder, in light of what recently has come to light, whether Morris’s long football career might have contributed to his later dementia.

Graphite

December 21st, 2012
2:28 pm

Rest assured,what made him great also took him.

carolinajacket

December 21st, 2012
2:31 pm

But I think that back when palyers played both ways the center linebacker combination was quite common. And please don’t forget Lum Snyder, Ray Beck, Lamar Wheat, and Hal Miller. These guys were great.

Tg

December 21st, 2012
2:35 pm

Was Larry related to George Morris?

RiverDawg

December 21st, 2012
2:39 pm

From the article it is easy to see that Larry Morris was heckuva Jacket and pro baller plus a great human being as well. May he rest in peace.

michael

December 21st, 2012
2:41 pm

i have a book my dad bought me back in 1973 about those years. good times….i wish today’s kids would allow themselves to understand the history of tech.

Ken Sugiura

December 21st, 2012
2:50 pm

TG – They weren’t related.
And the age was corrected. He was 79. Thanks.

GTVET

December 21st, 2012
2:55 pm

Not only a Great football player but a great man…Rest in Peace…

GT79

December 21st, 2012
3:14 pm

A great player from an era when Tech football was supreme. Hopefully, we can get back to that level some day. Rest in peace, Mr. Morris.

Ricky Grooms

December 21st, 2012
3:16 pm

Did George “Buster” Humphrey play for GT with Mr Norris?

Franklin Dawg

December 21st, 2012
3:36 pm

When I was a kid and didn’t know any better, I was a big fan of those great Tech teams of the 50’s. In my opinion, Larry Morris was the best Tech player (and one of the best in the nation) of that or any other era. Great with the Bears also.

GaDawgFan18

December 21st, 2012
4:13 pm

The Jacket nation has lost one hell of a football player, business man, and human being. May he rest in peace.

Auburn Grad

December 21st, 2012
4:16 pm

First college game I ever saw was that 7-3 win over UGA.
Back then even the quarterbacks played defense.

Red Ruffinsore

December 21st, 2012
4:32 pm

I played for Franklin Brooks at Decatur 67 and 68. Mr. Morris got me a scholarship offer to South Carolina in 69. The two toughest men I have ever known, uncompromising and fair. May both legends rest in peace.

blazer

December 21st, 2012
5:01 pm

Hell of an engineer!!!

jacket backer

December 21st, 2012
5:24 pm

My Dad was at Tech in the early 50’s and talks all the time about Larry Morris and those great Tech teams. A great man and a helluva engineer!

Michael Atkins

December 21st, 2012
5:48 pm

Rest easy my friend.

Unbiased Sometimes

December 21st, 2012
5:48 pm

good god, 24 tackles in one game!?

Ol'JacketFan

December 21st, 2012
6:44 pm

I met Mr. Morris, Billy Lothridge and Billy Martin as an 8 year old playing for the Blackwell Bears in Cobb County all those many years ago. As an awe struck kid my life long love for GA Tech Football was formed. I can now look back 45 plus years later and still those men as the heroes they were to me. May God keep Larry’s family and may he rest in peace.

tigerjoe

December 21st, 2012
8:44 pm

As great a football player as he was (the best) he was an even greater family man and mentor. god bless mr.morris. you are a true legend we can be all proud of.

Flo - Ri - Duh

December 21st, 2012
9:52 pm

Sad to see where Tech is now in football……. they were once the best. Morris was the best of the Jackets.

nobodyouknow

December 21st, 2012
10:02 pm

Went to Murphy high school with his beautiful wife. The former Kay Wilder. I was a few years behind her but always had a big crush on Kay. She was a very sweet and friendly gal. God bless and rest in peace Larry.

Ga Tech Old Timer

December 21st, 2012
10:05 pm

The stuff legends are made of. He was a man when he graduated from Decatur. For Tech fans – a pleasure to watch on the field – an inspiration to fellow team mates – college and pro. Thankful I had the opportunity to watch him play. Know he’s now cheering on the Jackets from his “sky box”.

5150 UOAD

December 21st, 2012
10:07 pm

Flo – Ri – Duh
December 21st, 2012
9:52 pm

Sad to see where Tech is now in football
================================

Not really. It is sad to see the pathetic state of the Government Educational System. The lack of parents that push their kids to be SMART and work hard in school. It is sad that kids think getting passed along and PRAYING they make it to the NFL is a realistic goal.

McDonoughGator

December 21st, 2012
10:11 pm

I used to sell chemicals to a former GT great Henry Hair. I got to meet both Larry and George in Henry’s office. Great men and great Yellowjackets.

Homer Adams

December 21st, 2012
10:14 pm

Larry Morris was an All-American player and is listed as one of college football’s all-time greats. Coach Bobby Dodd had some great teams during the 1950s, with many great players, and Morris might have been the best.

Rest in peace.

Dacusville Bill

December 21st, 2012
10:50 pm

One of my heroes from long ago and far away—-RIP

Freddie Blassie

December 21st, 2012
11:05 pm

Larry Morris was a great person. I am very sorry that he had such a tough time in the last several years, Larry. You will always be remembered.

[...] Entries2 Tech legend Larry Morris dies | Georgia Tech Reply With Quote     + Reply to Thread [...]

pcb mike

December 22nd, 2012
2:26 am

I had the pleasure and Honor to meet him on the golf course at East Lake when I was 16 years old, I was so awed it took me a couple of holes before I remembered to give him my name.

blackandwhitestripes

December 22nd, 2012
6:27 am

This guy was one of the reasons I am a Tech fan. RIP Mr. Morris.

Old Army

December 22nd, 2012
7:48 am

I had the honor of briefly getting to know the Morris family when I played youth football at Chastain with his son (also a terrific player). Larry Morris made a lasting impression simply by the way he carried himself and treated others around him with dignity and respect. Rest in peace Larry, may the good Lord comfort your family.

John

December 22nd, 2012
8:01 am

I was a student at Tech when Larry played. He was admired on campus for his personal being as well as his football skills. I later had the privilege of playing against him in a church softball league in Decatur during his off season. He was the same, genuine, unpretentious person then as he was on campus.

A fine man.