In the summer of 2018, Andrew Morris believed he was headed to Chandler High School.
He wanted to follow in the footsteps of N’Keal Harry, a standout receiver for the Wolves who played at Arizona State before becoming a first round pick of the New England Patriots.
But during a seven-on-seven competition at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert, numerous players were vying for wideout spots at Chandler. There were so many that coaches asked Morris if he wanted to play defensive end.
Morris accepted, but he wanted his shot at wideout. There to offer it was Mesquite High School.
After watching the Wildcats play, Morris and his father went to talk to quarterback Gerardo Saenz and freshman coach Keith Carpenter. Morris was sold.
“I’m going ‘Holy cow, what am I thinking?’” Morris said. “I gotta be here. To me, it wasn’t even a choice.”
Since enrolling at Mesquite, Morris has been one of the Wildcats’ impact players on both sides of the ball. He racked up 116 receptions for 1,888 yards and 17 touchdowns at wide receiver from 2018-2020 and made roughly 180 combined tackles at linebacker — a position he started playing sophomore year — over the past two seasons.
However, it is not just Morris’ play that makes an impact. He is a leader whose work ethic has permeated through the program. His intelligence and maturity allows him to communicate effectively with teammates. He has a keen understanding of the game, according to head coach Scott Hare.
These factors have made Morris one of the driving forces of Mesquite’s culture. It is also what motivated him to commit to Marshall, a program he believes epitomizes his football philosophy, and coach Charles Huff.
“He was telling me he had opportunities to go bigger places,” Morris said. “But he picked Marshall because of the potential Marshall had. And that’s the same exact thing I see. I see Marshall being a team where my sophomore, junior and senior year… there is no reason why we shouldn’t be winning the conference championship in the C-USA.”
During his freshman year, Morris befriended Ty Thompson — then a sophomore quarterback — in the weight room. Both agreed that they would win a state title before they graduate.
As Thompson became the top prospect from Arizona in the 2021 recruiting class, Morris was one of his top targets. Together, the two helped lead the Wildcats to back-to-back 3A Division championships in 2019 and 2020.
With Thompson now playing college football at Oregon, Morris is taking their pact one step further. He wants a third title before he heads to Huntington, West Virginia.
“They don’t come a lot better than Andrew,” Hare said. “Those state titles put a lot of weight on Andrew’s shoulder over the last two years. And he’s obviously come through. As he matures into his senior year, I think he’s gonna be a man playing with boys.”
If there is one thing Morris can be trusted with, it is responsibility. During the opening game of his sophomore year against Gilbert High School and current University of Arizona quarterback Will Plummer, Morris was made middle linebacker for the first time and given one job: stop Plummer.
Morris did, finishing with 11 tackles and two sacks. He also torched Gilbert’s defensive backs with four catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-24 win.
According to senior outside linebacker Brayden Daly, Morris quickly bonded with the team when he arrived at Mesquite. Eventually, he helped set a standard.
When Morris shows up at practice, he works hard, both on the field and in the weight room. And his teammates take notice and follow his lead, in what he calls “the snowball effect.”
“He’s gonna manifest to be the best he can be,” senior wide receiver and safety Carter Wojeck said. “The only thing stopping him is him and he’s not gonna stop.”
Hare has coached football for 20 years and said Morris — who he believes will be Mesquite’s next All American — is one of the best players he has ever worked with. At six-foot-two and 215 pounds, Hare envisions him being All-State at either wide receiver or linebacker.
Additionally, Morris’ ability to soak up strategies and execute them on the field are second to none — in part due to “pure instinct and ability” — according to Hare.
Yet he was not heavily recruited. His only offers came from Marshall, Idaho and New Mexico. Mesquite’s coach said this was due in part to coaches not being able to come to the Wildcats’ campus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Morris has recently been contacted by coaches from programs in the Big Ten, Pacific-12 and Atlantic Coast Conferences who are eager to see his midseason film.
Meanwhile, the Thundering Herd made their interest clear to Morris. Just like at Mesquite, he wants to help build something, this time in the Appalachian Mountains. That feeling was affirmed on an official visit in June.
“You either want me or you don’t,” Morris said. “To me, I see those schools as they don’t want me. There’s someone else on the board. At Marshall, I was their guy. So that makes me want them more.”
Morris is feeling increased pressure this season. He said the team was Thompson’s last year, but now, Morris feels it’s his responsibility to lead the Wildcats to wins and help his teammates achieve at the highest standard. The Gilbert native left Chandler — an Arizona high school football powerhouse — for opportunities like this.
He will have a bigger offensive role this season, playing in the backfield as well as wide receiver. Additionally, he is moving from inside to outside linebacker.
Since his arrival at Mesquite three years ago, Morris aspired to change the culture of the Wildcats. He has, and will soon bring his mentality of hard work and passion to a Thundering Herd team without a conference championship since 2014.
But before then, there is still work to be done at Mesquite.
“We’re all looking to prove that we don’t need a five-star quarterback to go win State again,” Daly said. “We still play our game to the best of our abilities, no matter what we have.”
One can presume that Morris will be leading this charge when the Wildcats take the field on Sept. 3.