Bluffton's Morris gets unexpected call from Patriots

April 3, 2011 

Jon Morris could hardly believe his ears.

He picked up the phone one day at his home in Belfair and the voice on the other end belonged to New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft.

"He's a good friend," said Morris, who played for the Patriots for 11 of his 15 pro seasons. "But he's not the kind of guy who picks up the phone and calls, you know?

Kraft's call came with the purpose of delivering overdue news -- after three consecutive years coming up short in fan voting, Morris had been elected to the Patriots' hall of fame as the first selection by the new senior committee, which was formed to ensure players from the franchise's early years get fair consideration.

"It really came out of the blue," Morris said. "I had given up hope. I really had."

Morris' hope of being honored had waned when the stars who helped launch the Patriots' recent success began to become eligible for enshrinement -- Drew Bledsoe heads the list this year, with Troy Brown to follow next year and the likes of Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Willie McGinest becoming eligible in 2013.

"My wife said to me, 'This probably makes up for the fact that you never won a Super Bowl,' " said Morris, who joins a group of 15 players previously elected. "I guess so. I don't know if I'd trade a Super Bowl ring for this, but it's close."

Many who have followed the franchise since the 1960s felt Morris' honor was long overdue. Granted, he played on only two winning teams in 11 years with the franchise, but he was picked for six consecutive AFL all-star games from his rookie season in 1964 through 1969 and was named to the first AFC all-star team that played against its NFC counterparts in 1970, the first year after the merger. He also was the starting center on the Patriots' 50th anniversary team, and served as an analyst on the team's radio broadcasts from 1979 to 1987.

Never during that time did Morris give much thought to the notion he was doing anything to add to Patriots lore.

"When you're playing all you're trying to do is get through the next game," he said. "You don't think about what your legacy is going to be. You just try to survive, basically."

And survive, he did, playing in 182 games -- starting 112 -- in his 15-year career, a pretty remarkable run for an offensive lineman.

The honor has brought many memories of those days rushing back, Morris said, as have the more than 100 phone calls, emails and letters offering congratulations.

"When you're playing pro football, the coaches always say enjoy this recognition, but the day you quit playing it's all going to be over and everyone's going to forget you," Morris said. "Here I am (33 years) after I was done playing, and people still remember it. It's overwhelming."

The induction ceremony is sure to be even more overwhelming -- whenever it happens. The celebration typically is held on the day of the Patriots' first preseason home game, but with the NFL in lockout mode and the 2011 season potentially in danger, Morris might be left waiting to get into the hall once again.

"I sent Bob Kraft a letter saying thank you and I look forward to the ceremony as soon as you sign a new collective bargaining agreement with a 60 percent increase in retired players' pensions," Morris said with a laugh. "I haven't heard back from him yet."

But he probably shouldn't make too much of that. Unless he has an awfully good reason, Kraft isn't the type of guy who picks up the phone and calls, you know?

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