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Article updated: 10/10/2013 11:03 PM
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It's Matt Morrissey's turn to take over at Stevenson
 

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It's Matt Morrissey's turn to take over at Stevenson
  • Stevenson receiver and defensive back Matt Morrissey has committed to Michigan State, extending a family legacy of high athletic achievement.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson receiver and defensive back Matt Morrissey has committed to Michigan State, extending a family legacy of high athletic achievement. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson receiver and defensive back Matt Morrissey has committed to Michigan State, extending a family legacy of high athletic achievement.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson receiver and defensive back Matt Morrissey has committed to Michigan State, extending a family legacy of high athletic achievement. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson receiver and defensive back Matt Morrissey has committed to Michigan State, extending a family legacy of high athletic achievement.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson receiver and defensive back Matt Morrissey has committed to Michigan State, extending a family legacy of high athletic achievement. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 

It's finally Matt Morrissey's time to show no mercy.

And he seems to enjoy keeping the pedal to the metal, much like his three older siblings did in everything from horse to board games when he was growing up.

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"Whenever we have a chance, my family does something competitive," Morrissey said. "Board games, pool, ping pong, cards, sports. We like that kind of stuff. We like competing against each other.

"But I was always at a disadvantage when I was a little kid. I'd always lose at 1-on-1 in the driveway, and when it was an intellectual board game, it would be a beat-down. No one cared if I was only 7. There was no mercy."

Morrissey, a senior at Stevenson, laughs now about the competitive frustrations of his youth. But it certainly wasn't easy living in a household of older, more savvy top-flight competitors, starting with his dad Jim, a former Bears linebacker from the Super Bowl era. Mom Amy was an athlete in high school back in Flint, Mich., where she met Jim. She starred in volleyball and softball. And Morrissey's three older siblings, Mike, Caitlyn and Anna, all went on to big-time sports successes in high school, and in some cases college.

"We might have picked on Matt a little bit since he was the youngest," Anna said with a laugh. "He'd get a little upset."

Perhaps Morrissey is now getting his revenge, at the expense of his adversaries all over Lake County.

There seems to be no let-up in Morrissey, no mercy rules in the games he now plays.

He has become a relentless and scrappy defender for the Stevenson basketball team, which went downstate last season with him as a starter. He's also a constant two-way threat, at wide-receiver and cornerback, for the football team, which is 4-2 and angling for a North Suburban Conference title and long playoff run.

He leads the Patriots with about 500 receiving yards, including a 123-yard effort in last week's win at Warren. Meanwhile, in the defensive backfield, Morrissey is a tough nut to crack. His coverage is hard to shake and his spot-on instincts lead to interceptions and deflections.

"I just always want to be making plays for my team," Morrissey said. "I always want to be doing something to help my team win."

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Morrissey has done plenty of that over his three-year varsity football career, which is why he was a top Division I recruit until he ended the courting process recently by committing to his parents' alma mater, Michigan State. The Spartans will likely use him as a wide receiver.

Anna is also a Spartan. She is a point guard for the women's basketball team at Michigan State and is majoring in nursing.

"Everyone wanted to make sure that it was my choice on where to go for college, so they really tried to stay out of it," Morrissey said. "But I know they're all pretty excited about me being a Spartan. I think they were all hoping for that. Anna, especially. She's really excited that we're going to be at the same school."

Anna and Matt have a special relationship. They are closest in age, at 20 and 17 respectively.

"We were the two who were always out in the driveway together playing basketball," Anna said. "We are really close."

A 25, Mike is the oldest Morrissey child. He played football and basketball at Stevenson and went on to play football at Boston College. He now works in sales in Chicago and comes out to all of Matt's games. It seems only fair since Matt went to all of Mike's games, and dreamed of being as good as his big brother someday.

Caitlyn is 23 and played basketball at Stevenson before majoring in journalism at Indiana University. She now works in Chicago as well, as an editor. Matt says she's the jokester of the family and is always giving everybody nicknames.

"All of us are really close," Matt said of his siblings. "I love it when everyone is home. That's the best. The house gets really loud and there's never a dull moment. There's always a lot of talking and joking around. We all have a great time together."

Matt says that all of his siblings have taught him about sports, about work ethic, about how to keep a balance with sports and school.

But it was Anna who probably sharpened Matt's competitive edge the most. The two spent a lot of time together as kids.

"Because we're closest in age, we did a lot together, a lot of 1-on-1 games in the driveway and Horse," Matt said. "Anna used to beat me all the time. Now, it's a better game and I get her most of the time. But she's got a beautiful shot and you can't leave her. I still have a lot of fun going up against her."

Matt had so much fun playing basketball with Anna, as well as with his school and AAU teammates that he nearly gave up football as a freshman at Stevenson in order to pursue basketball more seriously.

But after earning a starting spot on the football team as a sophomore and having immediate success, Matt gave that idea a second thought.

"I told Matt that he should make whatever decision he thought was best, but that he really needed to stick with that decision. He shouldn't go back and forth and try to go back to football," said Jim Morrissey, who coached his sons in grade school in both football and basketball. "He decided to stay with football another year and that's when you really saw him start to love the game. He had a lot of success during his sophomore year and I think that made him want to stick with it."

Jim is glad Matt stuck with football, but he's always been careful to make it clear to his kids, particularly his sons, that he's never expected them to live up to his accomplishments as a professional athlete.

"I've always told Mike and Matt that if you play football, you have to be ready to really make a commitment to it," Jim said. "With two-a-days, and training camp and the physical part of the game, what a tough sport to play if you really don't love it.

"I wanted them to play football because they loved it, not because of someone else's expectations."

Expectations from the outside that Matt and his brother Mike should be good football players, given their genes, certainly exist.

But Matt can barely relate. He was born in 1996, about four years after his dad retired from the NFL. He's seen a couple of game videos of his dad playing for the Bears. He's seen the "Super Bowl Shuffle," but that's about it.

"To me, I don't really think of my dad as an ex-NFL player. I just think of him as being a good dad," Matt Morrissey said. "I'm sure some people have expectations for me because of who he is, but I've never put any pressure on myself because of that.

"I'm out there because I love playing the game. I just have that love for the game."

Morrissey also loves winning. Clearly, it's his time for that now.

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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