Editor’s note: The profile on Jason Morris was written by Pete Smith, a 1963 Norwich High School graduate. This is a sixth in a series of articles on the inaugural Norwich Sports Hall of Fame class. The induction ceremony is Saturday, June 18 at Canasawacta Country Club. Please contact the Norwich High School athletics office for more details on the banquet.
Whether he was in street clothes or in uniform, it must have been hard for opponents to think that this nice-looking lad with a wonderful smile, so friendly, so cordial, could possibly want to “leave them in his dust,” so to speak. But, that is exactly what he did.
Jason hit the varsity football scene as a junior and was immediately a two-way starter, wide receiver on offense and a cornerback on defense. He caught 10 passes during the season (Norwich did not throw the ball a great deal) for 275 yards, three of which went for touchdowns. Jason also ran the ball 29 times for 242 yards, including one touchdown run of 63 yards. On defense, he returned a fumble and an interception for touchdowns. All told, Jason scored six touchdowns – all but the 25-yard fumble recovery were for over 40 yards and three were for over 60 yards! The Evening Sun placed him on their First Team as a receiver.
The 1990-’91 Norwich High basketball team had a 6-15 record. Jason was second in scoring, netting 228 points in 21 games, including a career high of 27 against Sherburne-Earlville. With a 20-0 jayvee squad and Jamie Schultz and Jason as returning starters, the Tornado looked poised to improve greatly in the 1991-92 season.
Everyone knew Jason was fast, but any question as to how fast was answered in the 1991 track season. Besting U-E’s speed merchant, Jarvis Shields, Jason ran for the STAC and Section IV 100-meter dash championship. The stage was now set for what many thought would be a great senior year for Jason Morris – and for Norwich teams.
Norwich had not won a football crown since the 1970 squad went 7-1 in the Iroquois League’s last season, losing only to Utica Proctor, 6-2, in the non-league season opener. That team was tri-captained by Danny Ryan, Ron Swingle and Dave Gantt, and included such other fine performers as Gary Podenak, Roger Shonosky and Doug Wilson.
Pre-season football practice began and expectations for Coach Pluta’s Norwich squad were high in the southern tier, as John Fox, longtime Binghamton sports editor touted the Purple and the “speeding bullet” ball carrier he compared to Cornell’s Heisman Trophy runner-up, Ed Marinaro. The optimistic mood took a decidedly negative turn as Jason was inexplicably ill following his (often) long runs. Jason soon came to the realization that if the run was over forty yards, he got sick. At first, the solution was not to let him run the ball more than forty yards from paydirt, but, after a few days, trainer Kip Cooper diagnosed the problem. Jason was holding his breath and getting oxygen deprived when he had to sprint for too long a distance. Problem solved and the season began with Jason, once again, in top form.