Alfred Morris makes his way through the rows of vehicles in the lot at Redskins Park, car keys in one hand, helmet in the other.
“Oh, you wanna see my boo?” he says. Nearby sit a Lincoln Navigator SUV, a Porsche, a couple of Range Rovers and Dodge Challengers.
“Here’s the Bentley,” he proudly says. But he’s standing in front of a silver 1991 Mazda 626. “You wanna know the best part about my boo?”
The rookie running back walks around to the passenger side to a spot near the rear.
“You know, dimples are beautiful — especially the half-dimples,” Morris grins, rubbing a slight dent. “My boo’s even got a dimple. I love this car.”
It’s the unlikeliest of rides for the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher. But very little is typical when it comes to Morris, who has helped quarterback Robert Griffin III transform the Washington Redskins’ offense into one of the most potent attacks in the NFL.
From his journey to the NFL — routed through Florida Atlantic University — to his ascension as Washington’s starting running back, nothing is as one would expect.
But that’s fine with Morris, a soft-spoken, “Yes-sir, yes-ma’am” kid, the fourth of Ronald and Yvonne Morris’s seven sons.
To Morris, the 21-year-old car with 124,000 miles on the odometer represents a gift from God; the answer to countless prayers — even more than he offered up regarding his dream of playing in the NFL.
Morris didn’t get a car for his high school graduation like many of his classmates at Pine Forest High in Pensacola, Fla. Once in college — 10 hours away from home in Boca Raton, Fla. — Morris had to hoof it.
“The two most reliable things I had were my legs, so I used to walk everywhere,” the 5-foot-10, 218-pound Morris says with a shrug. “I’d walk to class, walk to work at Sears. It was quite a haul, but I’d walk it. I wanted a car so bad.”
Three years after he arrived at Florida Atlantic, Morris’s pastor, Gregory Fashaw, sold the football player the Mazda. He wanted to give it to Morris. But in fear of violating NCAA rules of improper benefits, he sold it to Morris for a great price.
“He said, ‘Two dollars. Just two dollars,’ ” Morris recalled. “I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Two dollars!’ God answered my prayer. . . . I was like, ‘It might not be much, but it’s mine.’ I wouldn’t let anybody steal my joy. They’d crack on me when I got it, and I’d be like, ‘Oh, that Bentley out there? Yeah, I’d be jealous if I didn’t have one, too.’ And the name just stuck.”
Morris drove the car the 1,022 miles from South Florida to Ashburn this spring after the Redskins drafted him and signed him to a deal that will pay him roughly $390,000 as a rookie. He could afford another car, but prefers to save and help his family.
“Why would I waste money on another car? My needs are met,” he says.
Said Redskins fullback Darrel Young: “He comes into Redskins Park in that every day. He doesn’t care what people think about him. That should tell you there’s something special about him.”
‘Really a unique kid’
Of the country’s 120 Football Bowl Championship coaches in 2008, only Florida Atlantic’s Howard Schnellenberger saw something special in Morris. He was an all-state linebacker in high school, but on offense, he served primarily as a lead blocker in an option-heavy scheme. FAU was the only school to offer a scholarship, so Morris accepted, although at the time, he still wasn’t entirely sure where the school was located.
“He had all the traits that you look for,” recalled Schnellenberger, now retired. “He fit well into a pro-style offense. . . . When he hits the holes, he hits it hard, runs behind his shoulder pads, drives with his legs. That’s why we wanted him. A lot of it was instinctive, but you groom a player, and he learned how to run that way from playing fullback his first year.”
Thanks to injuries to teammates, Morris took over at tailback as a sophomore and never relinquished the role, averaging 1,168 yards and nine touchdowns his last three seasons. But the Owls posted a 10-26 record during those three seasons, including 1-11 in Morris’s senior year because of inexperience at many key positions, according to Schnellenberger.
Morris generated little interest in the NFL draft.
“It’s inconceivable to me that 32 teams passed on him five and six times until Washington took him,” Schnellenberger said. “Were 172 players better than Alfred?”
Morris and his family were just happy to hear the phone ring.
“It was chaos,” recalls Morris’s younger brother, Shawn, a Division III all-American running back at Birmingham Southern. “Phone rang and the whole family went crazy. He got off the phone, and there was a bunch of jumping around, running around. For three days of waiting, sitting there. That doubt had started to creep up.”