Today in Patriots History
Happy 77th birthday to Jon Morris
Born April 5, 1942 in Washington DC
Patriot center, 1964-1974; uniform #56
Pats 4th round (29th overall) selection of the 1964 draft, from Holy Cross
Jon Morris | Patriots Hall of Fame
Jon Morris played 11 seasons for the Patriots, appearing in 130 games from 1964-74. He earned seven consecutive All-Star appearances with six AFL-All Star games (1964 through 1969) and was an AFC Pro Bowl center in 1970. His seven league All-Star selections rank second in Patriots history behind Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah (9). Morris was the first Patriots’ player to be selected to the NFL Pro Bowl. Morris anchored an offensive line that opened holes for Jim Nance to amass a team-record 45 rushing touchdowns from 1965-71.
New England Patriots of the Past: Jon Morris | Last Word on Football
Morris played in all 14 games of his rookie season, and immediately became known as one of the most dominating centers in football. Morris took home the team’s Rookie of the Year award in 1964, while also winning All-AFL honors and a spot on the AFL All-Star team.
The Holy Cross product would go on to show that he was no one-year wonder, either. Morris was selected to every AFL All-Star team from 1965-1969, being named All-AFL each year. The center was an absolute iron-man, as he never missed a game during his AFL tenure.
The AFL merged with the NFL prior to the 1970 season, and Morris went down as one of the best players in the AFL’s history. His great play and long list of accomplishments earned him the honor of being named Second-Team, All-Time All-AFL. The First-Team selection, Oakland Raiders center Jim Otto, played four more AFL seasons than Morris.
Much like fellow Boston Patriot Gino Cappelletti, Morris remained connected to the Patriot football scene after his retirement. Starting in 1979, Morris served as the primary color commentator for the Patriot radio games. Morris would eventually relinquish the post in 1987 after receiving a better offer with NBC Sports.
Morris had an incredible impact with the Patriot organization, both on and off the field.
Jon Morris Elected to Patriots Hall of Fame | CBS Boston
“It was overwhelming,” said Morris of his reaction to the call from Patriots owner Robert Kraft. “I thought my days were numbered. This announcement came as a complete surprise. I consider this the crowning achievement of my football life and I am so thankful to the Kraft family and the selection committee for allowing me to experience this feeling.”
“I give the Krafts all the credit for making the alumni feel so special and I look forward to being a part of this year’s hall of fame ceremony,” Morris added.
Welcome to Pats Hall, Jon Morris | Mike Reiss, espn - New England Patriots Blog
Morris' selection was made by the newly formed Senior Committee. Morris will be joined this year as an inductee by one of three yet-to-be-announced finalists.
A member of the Patriots' 50th anniversary team, 35th anniversary team, and 1960s all-decade team, Morris was a six-time AFL all-star. He had been a finalist for induction in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The Senior Committee, a 10-person group consisting of some of the most tenured Patriots beat writers and staff, felt it was time that Morris' wait officially ended. The establishment of the committee was to ensure that early-era players who are deserving of induction are given that consideration.
Jon Morris on his Induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame | Tales from the AFL
Believe it or not, Jim Otto was not the only man to play center in the American Football League! As incredible and enduring as we was (and he was both), Jim Otto garners nearly 100% of the attention when the center position is brought up in regards to the AFL. But there were other very fine centers through the league, Sam Gruneisen, Jon Gilliam and Al Bemiller, to name a few.
From 1964-1974, Jon Morris played center for the Boston Patriots. Drafted out of Holy Cross in the second round of the 1964 AFL Draft, Morris won the Patriots’ Rookie of the Year honors in ’64, and settled in for his 11-season stay as leader of the Patriots offensive line.
In 2011, after many near misses, Jon Morris was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame.
Boston Patriots | Remember the AFL
Jon Morris was a sensational three sport athlete in high school and played center and linebacker for three seasons at Holy Cross College, where he was the New York Daily News' "Athlete of the Year" in 1960 and Varsity Club Athlete of the Year and Lineman of the Year in 1963.
Morris was selected All-East and All-America in his senior year, played in the College All-Star Game and captained the Senior Bowl. He was inducted into the Holy Cross Hall of Fame in 1973.
The Packers were unable to lure him as a No. 2 draft choice and the Patriots signed him as their third pick. Morris was the Patriots' team Rookie of the Year in 1964, and their Unsung Hero in 1965.
He was an American Football League All-Star six times, 1964 through 1969, and played 128 games for the Patriots (eighth best individual record in club history). Morris was named to the second team, American Football League All-Time Team.
* Note: At the time Morris actually ranked 7th in the history of the Patriots in number of games played with 130. He now ranks 36th, tied with Logan Mankins in that category.
Picture Day allegedly from July 15, 1971(or maybe 1969-70?): offensive line RT Tom Neville, RG Len St. Jean, C Jon Morris, LT Tom Funchess and LG Mike Montler.
Why '10 voting for Patriots HOF is so big | Boston.com
Do you feel, Jon Morris, it’s tougher for American Football League players to get recognition? Seems I set him off a little:
“I had this conversation with someone the other day — I think it’s a disgrace that the all-time leading scorer in the American Football League is not in the NFL Hall of Fame,” Morris said, referencing Gino Cappelletti. “And I just wonder if that has something to do with it.”
And that led us down another road.
“I don’t know if any politics are involved in terms of the old AFL-NFL rivalry. I think that’s long gone, don’t you?” Morris continued. “I just think the longer you’re away from football, the easier it is to forget.
Boston Patriots Near Forgotten Heroes Live with CTE - Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute
Several other former Patriot players have been diagnosed with CTE. Aaron Hernandez most recently, Junior Seau, Mosi Tatupu and Kevin Turner also played for the Patriots. These men or their relatives are part of the group of 5,000 retired football players involved in a class action lawsuit against the NFL.
Other retired players from the 1970’s like Jon Morris, a former team captain and a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame, awaits the findings of baseline examinations. Morris played 11 seasons with the Patriots and snapped the ball to at least two quarterbacks, Jim Plunkett and Joe Kapp, who suffer from neurological disorders.
Marty Schottenheimer, now 74 and a coach with an outstanding history, reports that he is struggling with Alzheimer’s. Bill Johnson, who played defensive back with Schottenheimer, lives with Alzheimer’s and has pledged his brain for research.
The heroes of 1960’s and 70’s played football in a time when salaries were low and players relied on off-season work to make ends meet. Little was known about concussion and players were coached to lead with their heads. Concussion awareness in that era was low allowing players to be returned to the game often after a violent collision.
Billy Johnson suffered a subdural hematoma attempting to take down Larry Csonka, a Dolphin’s running back in 1970. Johnson has no memory of the game but he participated in the next practice and played in the next game. He contemplates committing suicide as he lives with cognitive deficits and memory loss.
John “Bull” Bramlett was known as “The Meanest Man in Football” joined the Patriots in 1969, He helped the team develop a reputation and earned much recognition for his ferocity of the field. He died at 73 from the complications of Alzheimer’s.
Bill Lenkaitis studied dentistry in the off-seasons; joining the Patriots in 1971 he earned a spot on the Patriots All-Decade team. By his late 60’s he lost interest in his dental practice and according to his wife he was showing the signs associated with CTE. Lenkaitis died in 2016 from Glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, but the toll of concussions was showing long before that.
Dennis Wirgowski played football in high school and college and excelled in other sports, he joined the Patriots in 1970 and was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973. As he aged he lost the athleticism that had marked his life and following an orthopedic injury was confined to a wheelchair. He spoke with his football friends about his increasing depression and began to collect articles about former football players who committed suicide. On January 25, 2014 he killed himself with a borrowed shotgun.
Many of these heroes of football are now out of sight as they live with disability or have died. It is important that we understand how multiple concussions changed their lives as we look for ways to increase concussion awareness and build greater safety into the game.
Interesting interview with Jon Morris and his wife Gail in the link above. He mentions how when he played football players had to take part time jobs in the offseason. Morris worked with a Boston food broker, which gave him enough experience to open up his own food brokerage when his football career ended. He and his wife are now retired to an impressive sounding home on a golf resort in South Carolina.