Michigan State center Chris Morris isn't ranked highly among the center class of 2006, but the Vikings are still interested enough in him to work him out today.
The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder has at least three centers in the Big Ten – Ohio State's Nick Mangold, Minnesota's Greg Eslinger and Wisconsin's Donovan Raoila – who are more highly rated, but Morris could still wind up being a late-round draft pick or signed as undrafted free agent.
Jon Scott of PatriotsInsider.com on the Scout.com network talked with Morris about his preparations for the draft and other things surrounding Morris' football life.
Q: Tell us how you got into football, where you started and what made you interested in playing.
CM: I have an older brother who is 28. Just growing up watching him play varsity sports, following the games made me want to do it. I started out in community recreation in sixth grade, and started playing linebacker and offensive line. My brother was a long snapper as well so I picked that up. He taught me. Then I started progressing and I got put on varsity. I played three years on varsity in high school. I got a scholarship and went to Michigan State.
Q: You were a three-year starter and a long snapper. Were you recruited for that coming out or was long snapping just part of your repertoire?
CM: Well, that was just part of my repertoire. My redshirt freshman year, I was actually our first-string long snapper and PAT snapper. So while I was getting backup reps at center, I was doing all our special teams snapping duties.
Q: Aside from your duties at center, did you move around on the line to play other positions?
CM: Pretty much in practice we rotate all the time just in case there's an injury. My sophomore year we had a couple guys who were injured at the guard position, so I started playing there. In the mid part of the season I played a few games [at guard], but pretty much my playing experience is at center.
Q: Did you have any rivals at Michigan State, players who you might have gone against one year and couldn't wait to play again the following season?
CM: My first year starting at center we played Wisconsin. Anttaj Hawthorne was up at Wisconsin was a real good player. He kind of beat up on me when I was a young guy. So after the off-season that was the team I was looking forward to facing and their D-line. We got an opportunity with being the No. 4-rated defense in the country at that point. We kinda beat up on them that week. We scored like 50 points and ran for something like 400 yards. So that was nice. Me and the Michigan guys, like Gabe Watson, there's a rivalry going back and forth these past few years.
Q: There's a lot of talk surrounding Gabe and his draft status. How would you rate him as compared to other guys you've gone up against?
CM: He's a tough player. I think his only knock would just being, you know, consistent throughout the game, and maybe taking some plays off when he shouldn't have. He's a big-body guy and likes to put pressure on the quarterback.
Q: As a lineman, there are obvious situations where you have to block for the pass or block for the run. Do you have a preference of either type of blocking?
CM: I think all O-linemen like punishing people, like running off the ball and putting guys on their heels. But it's also nice just keeping the quarterback clean and letting him throw down the field 30 yards at a pop so… not a whole lot of preference. I think running the ball, it's more of a rewarding feeling.
Q: Are you looking forward to the draft? Are you nervous or anxious at all?
CM: I think a little bit of everything. It's hard not knowing what your life holds in the next couple of weeks.
Q: I understand you've already graduated, is that correct?
CM: Yes, I graduated last May with a finance degree, I'm working on my masters degree.
Q: How did you get into finance vs. anything else?
CM: I've always been interested in numbers and math is my favorite subject. I figured that anything I accomplish in life, any money I make, having a finance degree I would know what to do with it. It leads to a lot of opportunities.
Q: Getting back to the draft, Are you back at school, what are you doing now leading up to the draft.
CM: I'm not at school, but I'm using the facilities, working out with and helping some of the younger linemen on the Michigan State team. Trying to occupy my time pretty much.
Q: Are you working on anything particular? Have scouts given you any feedback that you might focus on one thing in particular?
CM: Definitely working a little, but on the guard position as well. I know that in the NFL it's a must that you should know more than one position, especially on the offensive line. So I'm just polishing up my guard technique is what I've been working on a lot.
Q: So do you feel that you could fill in at guard when you're needed to?
Q: How did your pro day and your preparations leading up to now go for you?
CM: I think it went real well. After the first of the year I went out to Pittsburgh to work out with some people my agent set up, right by the Steelers facility. We've been working on speed and strength there. So by the time I got to my pro day, no nerves, just did real well. I put up some good numbers.
Q: Would you say it helped you make a big improvement going through that preparation your agent suggested?
CM: Definitely. You practice it so much the movements become second nature.
Q: How long were you there for?
CM: Close to two months, then I came home.
Q: Obviously you've been talking to some teams, leading up to the draft. Can you tell us a little of what they've been telling you and who you've been talking to?
CM: It's different because you talk to so many teams and you can't really get a good grip on if they're really interested or not or if they're just talking to you to say hello.
I flew out to visit Seattle a couple weeks ago. I went to visit the Jets last week. A couple of the Patriots guys came to work me out. Minnesota is coming to work me out Friday. The Jaguars have been in touch. So you've got a lot of different teams, but you don't know for sure where you're really going.
Q: When you flew out to places like Seattle, you must have met with the line coach. Did you meet with anyone else?
CM: Mostly scouts and the coaches, the O line coach. That's pretty much who I met with on that trip. I flew in to the Jets and pretty much met with everybody. I sat down with the offensive coordinator, sat down with the O-line coach, the head coach and the GM. That was more of a one-on-one visit where Seattle was more of a … there were 15 other guys there all doing the same thing.
Q: You said you have a meeting with the Vikings this Friday. Are you going there or are they going there to work you out?
CM: They're coming here to work me out.
Q: You also met with the Patriots. Who did you work out for, was it a scout or a coach?
CM: Coach Scarnecchia was here at my pro day to work me out and another guy, I can't remember his name, was here a week later to work me out.
Q: Did they run you through a bunch of standard drills, or ask you to do different things, or was it similar what you do for everyone else?
CM: Basically it was standard drills. They wanted to see if I could do some guard-style work on flexibility and taught me a few pass sets to see if I could remember them. I sat down with coach Scarnecchia for about a half an hour talking with him. He was trying to figure out who I am as a person and then we went on the board and did some plays.
Q: When you meet with these people, these coaches, you must be a little apprehensive even a little nervous not knowing them. What is the process like?
CM: I think they want to get to know you. They're not going to draft anybody who they don't see as a guy they can trust or someone who might get in trouble all the time. They want to know if you're a decent human being. Once they get a good sense of that, then a few of the coaches want to know if you know anything about football, if you're a smart guy, if you can take what you learn on the board and put it on to the field. They're going to test you a little bit. A few of the teams would teach me about their plays for about 20 minutes then they would hand me the marker and I would have to explain back to them what they just taught me.
Q: Is it something that a guy like you, coming from a bigger program, might have more knowledge of the different techniques and plays where a guy from a smaller school might not have as much experience in that type of system?
CM: Yeah we had a pretty extensive package. A lot of the NFL teams use sort of the same system, but just different names. You've got to be able to relate that to what you've been doing.
Q: Would you say that preparing for the draft is, obviously nerve-racking, but would you say it's something you're looking forward to?
CM: Definitely. I've been looking forward to this for my whole life. Things are getting closer and you've been working out for so long, you just want to play football again.
Q: Where are you going to be on draft day?
CM: At home. Probably locked in my room. I'll be at home, we're just going to have family and a few friends, nothing big.
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