Jimmy Morrissey has been proving people wrong for years, a fact that was solidified when he won the 2020 Burlsworth Trophy. It’s an award that is presented annually to the most outstanding college football player who began his career as a walk-on.
Now, Morrissey is hoping to hear his name called during the upcoming NFL draft.
Morrissey was a three-year letterman at La Salle College and a two-time All-Philadelphia Catholic League player in high school. When the time came around for Morrissey to be recruited, he heard crickets from every FBS school. He told the (Pittsburgh) Post-Gazette in December that he had sent an email blast to all 128 FBS colleges, but didn’t receive an offer from any of them.
He received offers from Bucknell, Colgate and Lehigh, but a camp at Pitt in the summer of 2015 got Morrissey noticed by offensive line coach John Peterson. In January 2016, Morrissey committed to Pitt as a walk-on.
After redshirting his freshman year, Morrissey won the starting center job during training camp in 2017 and was put on scholarship prior to the season.
“I think I needed to get an opportunity to get on the field with other kids at Pitt and show that I belonged there,” Morrissey said of going from walk-on to starter in a year’s time. “There was a lot of development. I came to practice every day and I played scout team against two good D-tackles in Shakir Soto and Tyrique Jarrett and other guys. I busted my tail every day and tried to get better and practice as hard as I possibly could. I enjoyed every snap on scout team I got, and I knew it would pay off for me in the long run, and fortunately it did.”
Despite taking the long road to get to where he is, Morrissey told the media during a virtual press conference after winning the Burlsworth Trophy in January that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m happy that I was a walk-on and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world,” Morrissey said. “The journey that I’ve been on, I’ve loved it. It’s been tough, but it’s been extremely rewarding.
“I’ve loved everything I’ve learned along the way and the way it’s helped shape my character.”
Morrissey was a four-year starter at center for the Panthers and was named captain in 2019 and 2020. He started 47 games during his Pitt career and missed only three games during his time at Pitt that came after sustaining an injury against Wake Forest in November 2018.
While Morrissey was training for the NFL draft in Pensacola this January, he received a call from Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy the day before the game inviting him to participate.
“I packed a quick bag and Mobile was like an hour and 15 (minutes) from Pensacola, so I got the call at 11:30 (a.m.), I was in the hotel by one o’clock, so I made it there in an hour and a half,” Morrissey recounted to the media on Pro Day.
Morrissey had to wait three and a half hours for a COVID-19 test, so he missed meetings and the walkthrough ahead of the Senior Bowl. He spent about 30 minutes with the offensive line coaches and spent the rest of the night studying the playbook. Despite having limited preparation, Morrissey took the field the next day and played center and both offensive guard positions. Now he’s hoping NFL teams take notice.
“What I’m trying to do right now through Pro Day and the interview process with the coaches and scouts that I’m meeting with is just show them my intangibles, things that you won’t be able to see on the field. Being able to pick up an offense quick, going out and executing that, which I hope I showed at the Senior Bowl, you know, learning the playbook in a night and then going out and playing all three interior positions,” Morrissey said on Pro Day.
“Definitely just show my leadership, my football IQ and my savviness with the game of football and how I prepare and be able to communicate that to the front office guys and all these coaches.”
Morrissey will likely be a late Day 3 pick or get signed as an undrafted free agent after the draft concludes. ESPN ranks Morrissey at No. 268 overall and the eighth best center. However, he isn’t concerned with where he’s going to wind up.
“I don’t know where I’m gonna go. I told my agent I don’t want to hear it,” Morrissey said. “If I’m drafted in the first round or the seventh round, it’s not gonna affect the way I work or prepare for this upcoming season.”
Morrissey’s history as a walk-on turned into a four-year starter has been a topic of conversation between him and NFL teams. He believes his story demonstrates his resolve — something that could be beneficial to him when an NFL team is deciding whether or not to sign him.
“I think it’s come up in almost every single interview, whether it’s with a coach or scout,” Morrissey said on Pro Day. “It’s a part of who I am and that chip on my shoulder stayed there and it still is there to this day. It speaks to what kind of player I am, to my fighting mentality. I’m extremely tough to kill. I don’t give up easily.”
“No matter where I’m at, I’m gonna scratch and claw to get to where I want to be.”