More than a chrome bumper on a junker, a high school football helmet provides a perfect place for stickers. And yet Matt Morrissey's Stevenson helmet is, strangely, unblemished.
Where are the stamp-sized skulls with crossbones? The mini footballs? Piling up multiple tackles, touchdowns and other game-changing stats will yield stacks of stickers. Stevenson's coaches award skulls and crossbones for defensive achievements and footballs for offensive accomplishments.
"I like collecting them," Morrissey said. "It's an awesome honor, but I've never put them on (the helmet). I guess (laughing) maybe I'm a little lazy."
Truth be told, the wide receiver/safety has an ulterior strategy for taking the field with a sticker-less helmet.
"Maybe to throw off the opponent," Morrissey said. "Maybe he doesn't think I'm very good because I don't got any stickers on."
That doesn't stick, Matt.
When you're the son of a Super Bowl Bear, the brother of former Stevenson star linebacker, a three-year varsity starter, an all-state selection as a junior, a Division I recruit and one of the most athletic players in the county, rest assured, the player eyeing you on the other side of the line of scrimmage knows who you are.
Opponents know No. 8 is elite. He's Michigan State-bound Matt Morrissey, captain of the Daily Herald Lake County All-Area football team. It's an honor that Mike Morrissey earned in 2005, before going on to play for Boston College.
"Big-time player on both sides of the ball," Stevenson coach Bill McNamara said of Mike's kid brother, a three-year starter at wide receiver and safety for the Patriots and the youngest of four children of Jim and Amy. "Great leadership of our team."
In helping Stevenson come within a win of playing for the Class 8A state championship, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Morrissey caught 43 passes, including 10 for touchdowns, averaging 18.2 yards per catch. He chalked up 107 tackles, including 70 solos and 3 for loss, 4 interceptions and 5 pass deflections. He also had a scoop and score.
The only blemish for Morrissey was a hamstring injury that cost him two playoff games, the only contests he missed in his prep career.
During the Wednesday practice before the Patriots' second-round playoff game against Glenbard North, he was running a routine route in practice. He planted "pretty viciously," he said, and felt his left hamstring tug.
"It just gave out on me," Morrissey said. "I felt a pop."
The pull caused him to miss the Glenbard North game. He was dressed in full uniform the following Saturday against Barrington on a stormy night but never played, as his teammates built an early lead and won to advance to the semifinals.
He finally got back on the field the following week against Loyola and played on both sides of the ball, although he still wasn't what he considered 100 percent.
"The hamstring got a little fatigued," Morrissey said. "I felt good on defense the whole game. The last drive was pretty tough, but I felt pretty good for most of the game."
In the end, he was feeling a different kind of pain. The Patriots saw their season end with a crushing loss, as Loyola converted a 2-point conversion with 1:03 left to pull out a 15-14 win in Lincolnshire.
"I'm still not over it," Morrissey said. "I don't think I'll be over it for a while, but you got to move on. It was probably the toughest game I've been through, and ending your Stevenson career is always tough. I just loved playing with the guys on my team."
Predicted by many before the season to be one of the state's best, the Patriots got off to a shocking 0-2 start. They then reeled off 10 straight wins, beating Lake Zurich in Week 9 to capture the North Suburban Lake Division championship with a 6-0 mark, before winning three playoff games.
When Stevenson started the season with losses to Kenosha Indian Trail and Homewood-Flossmoor, the doubters emerged. The Patriots used that as fuel.
"I don't think we were favored in a game from Week 8 on," Morrissey said. "I think the 60 guys in our locker room knew that we were always going to be doubted. We took that as a blessing because we had to work even that much harder. (The 0-2 start) brought us back down to earth and humbled us."
Morrissey's senior campaign ended a varsity career that started in late fall of his freshman year, when he got called up for the playoffs. He was listed as a backup quarterback and still remembers his "welcome to varsity" moment on scout team, compliments of senior linebacker Joey Squaglia. Morrissey dropped back to pass and was "blindsided" in the back, he said, by Squaglia.
Squaglia happens to be a family friend.
"Maybe he was mad about something else," Morrissey said with a laugh. "I'll never forget that hit.
"I went straight down on the turf. I was running around after that. I didn't want to take another shot. I was about 160 pounds. I don't think I could have taken much more of those."
Morrissey survived, fortunately for Stevenson. That would seem worthy of a sticker.