Semper Fi: Malik McMorris

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Malik McMorris is set to play defensive tackle for the West in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, but he may have a chance to join some former teammates at another position.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei defensive tackle Malik McMorris were two inches taller, he’d have a dozen Division I scholarship offers. As it stands, the 5-foot-11, 290-pounder has offers from Army, Cal Poly, UC Davis and Holy Cross, and a very intriguing preferred walk-on opportunity with California.

He is the reigning Trinity League Defensive MVP, split the award as a junior, owns two state title rings in track and field, has played center for the Monarchs’ JV basketball team (he’s focusing on football this year, and not playing hoops anymore), owns a 3.7 GPA and finished in the top five in the state of California this past spring in both the shot put (fourth – 60’ 9.5”) and discus (fourth -- 182’ 11”).

McMorris’s happy-go-lucky comportment betrays his path to being a Semper Fidelis All-American, a path we will chronicle in greater detail as the week goes on.

Suffice it to say that McMorris has been through quite a bit, and had to grow up all too soon, but there’s hope on the horizon.

Berkeley is where three – yes, three -- of his former Monarch teammates already reside, in wide receiver Matthew Rockett (three catches for 18 yards as a true freshman), offensive lineman Addison Ooms and quarterback Chase Forrest.

“I’ve been talking with Matt, Chase and Addy on a daily basis,” says McMorris. “Matt and Addy walked on, and Chase got a scholarship. I’m definitely getting a play-by-play of what goes down. I talked to Matt’s parents about the financial situation, because as a preferred walk-on, you’ve got to pay for school, yourself. I’ve been talking to them, and I’ve talked to coach [Zach] Yenser, the O-line coach every couple days, figuring out where we’re going, getting me to finish the packet – which I did – and prior to that, I was talking to coach [Tony] Franklin.”

Why would a defensive tackle be talking to the offensive coaches? Because the Bears are thinking about using McMorris at his second position – fullback.

“I just sent in my paper to coach Yenser, and he’s going to wait for admissions to open up, and he’s going to give me a number back, and we’ll see; they said I could play fullback,” McMorris said. “I can definitely come in and make an impact at fullback, but I want to play D-line, as well. I’ll do anything to play the highest level of football. Matt said that they gave him a chance to show off his skills on both sides of the ball, so if I get that opportunity, if I go to Cal, I’ll definitely shoot for the D-line, and even fullback, as well.”

McMorris has played fullback at the varsity level for the past three seasons, rushing 26 times for 102 yards and six touchdowns this past season. The season before, he rushed for 139 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries.

“I’m a two-way guy, definitely,” McMorris says. “In the playoffs last year, I was playing like, 100 plays a game, 110, that was crazy, playing fullback and D-line.”

McMorris says he loves playing defensive tackle, but whatever gets him to the next level is what he’s prepared to play.

“You get to go up against one guy or two guys a game, and the trenches, it’s crazy, I love battling like that,” McMorris says. “Fullback’s fun, definitely. In high school, it was a fun position, and you get to bang heads. It’s full-speed. You’ve got this guy, and you just take him out.”

Playing basketball, at least until this year, was how McMorris balanced the need to be big enough to play on the defensive line with being quick on his feet at fullback.

“I think, growing up as a kid, I was a bigger kid, but I always wanted to keep up with the faster kids,” McMorris says. “I want to push myself, to stay up in front. I was one of the fastest kids in my middle school, so I always try to be a fast, light-on-my-feet kind of guy. Playing basketball definitely helped me out with that, and this year, I’m focusing on track.”

Shot put and discus both require a certain amount of deft footwork, particularly in the spin technique, and for a thrower McMorris’s height – under six feet – lower-body explosion isn’t just a plus; it’s crucial. McMorris’s personal best in the discus – 192’ 11” – came at the CIF Southern Section Masters meet, earning him a first-place spot on the podium and a ticket to the state championships.


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