Morey ’99 suits up for second Super Bowl

By
Friday, January 30, 2009

After initially struggling to make it off the bench, Sean Morey ’99 can finally enjoy his stay at the top.

On Sunday night, the former Bruno superstar will suit up for his second Super Bowl in four years. In a Super Bowl match-up defined by inspiring Cinderella stories, Morey’s Arizona Cardinals will take on his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The game will be the Cardinals’ first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. It will feature such rags-to-riches stars as Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner – who has won a Super Bowl ring and two MVP awards after playing college football at Division I-AA Northern Iowa – and Pittsburgh defensive end James Harrison, the first undrafted player in NFL history to win a Defensive MVP award.

Likewise, for Morey, a special teams captain and, for the first time in his career, a Pro Bowler, success was not instant at the professional level.

At Brown, Morey was a standout from the start, earning 1995 Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors his freshman year. He went on to become a three-time selection to the All-Ivy first team and in his junior season was named Ivy League Player of the Year and a first-team All-American.

In the Sept. 30, 1996, issue of The Herald, then-Head Coach Mark Whipple ’79 said of Morey, “We don’t have a single senior that’s a receiver. We’re counting on Sean Morey … to lead our receiving corps and he’s only a sophomore.”

In addition to Morey’s outstanding physical skill set, current Head Coach Phil Estes remembers his former receiver’s constant drive to become a smarter football player. Morey showed himself to be a student of the game, thirsting for greater knowledge and awareness of every facet of the sport, Estes said.

“Sean was one of those guys who, when we’d leave at nights and we’d turn the lights out, would still be in there watching film,” he said. “He wanted to know football, and he didn’t just want to learn his own position. He wanted to learn about everybody’s position on the field.”

Estes was an assistant coach during Morey’s first three seasons at Brown, before taking over for Whipple as head coach in 1998.

After being drafted by the New England Patriots, Morey was given a rude awakening at the pro level. His 5’11” frame – small by NFL receiver standards – made it a struggle for him to find playing time. After multiple unsuccessful stints with NFL teams, and time playing abroad in NFL Europe for the Barcelona Dragons, Morey finally saw consistent NFL action as a special teams player with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003.

Though it had taken four years, Morey’s eventual success in the NFL came as no surprise to those who know him well.

“In my years as a player and as a coach, Sean is the hardest-working guy that I’ve ever seen,” said Brown quarterbacks coach James Perry ’00, who counted on Morey’s receiving prowess in his years as the Brown quarterback. “Obviously, his talent was a prerequisite for what he’s accomplished, but he’s battled through a lot of adversity, and nobody works harder than Sean.”

After one season with the Eagles, Morey joined the Steelers and a familiar face in Whipple, who was then Pittsburgh’s quarterback coach. In 2005 – just his third season in the league and his second with Pittsburgh – Morey was named a special teams captain, and he helped lead the Steelers to an 11-5 regular season record and a Super Bowl victory.

“Sean just had that leadership quality that brings out the best in others, too,” said Zachary Burns ’99, a former All-American tight end who played alongside Morey. “I don’t think anyone who played with Sean is surprised that he’s had the success he’s had.”

Following the 2006 season, Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt took a new job as head coach of the Cardinals, and Morey decided to follow Whisenhunt to Arizona, a team coming off a 5-11 season and without a playoff appearance since 1998. Despite the franchise’s recent struggles, Morey was optimistic, according to Perry.

“Talking to him, I could tell he was very excited when he went to Arizona,” Perry said. “He had great confidence in Whisenhunt, and it was his previous relationship with Whisenhunt that made him go to Arizona.”

“No one would have predicted that they’d be in the Super Bowl, but Sean … was quite confident they were going to have success,” he said.

Morey has been an important part of Arizona’s recent success, seeing occasional action at wide receiver in addition to being named a special teams captain for both his years with the Cardinals. This year Morey will travel to Honolulu for his first Pro Bowl appearance, on Feb. 8.

But Morey, who turns 33 next month, continues to set new goals for himself.

“I don’t think Sean has ever been satisfied. He thinks this Pro Bowl thing is an honor, but he still wants to make it as a wideout,” Estes said. “Sean’s always looking over his shoulder, at new guys coming into the league, and he’s not about to let anyone do his job better.”

Morey won’t be the only Brunonian holding down the NFC special teams squad in Honolulu. New York Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie ’07, a former All-American linebacker for Brown who won a Super Bowl ring with the Giants in his rookie season last year, will join the experienced alum.

“It’s kind of neat for us, because this is recruiting season now, and we have a lot to brag about,” Perry said. “These are very unique guys, and it speaks well of the whole University.”

Like Morey, DeOssie also made the adjustment to a new role in the NFL, after establishing himself as a defensive standout in his collegiate career.

“That’s not an easy transition, to go from being the star of your team to playing on special teams, but both Sean and Zak are truly team guys,” Perry said. “I think it speaks to a sense of team that Coach Estes has developed here. These are guys who, at Brown, never had a sense of entitlement, and … when they were asked to play special teams, approached it with the same level of vigor that they had approached everything in football.”

While this may be an unusually successful year for Brown alums in the NFL, there is more to come from Brown football.

The program currently boasts several players who, according to Estes, have received attention from NFL teams, including defensive tackle David Howard ’09, punter Rob Ranney ‘08.5, wide receivers Bobby Sewall ’10 and Buddy Farnham ’10, safety Chris Perkins ’10 and defensive end Jim Develin ’10. If Brown’s NFL prospects want to see the path to success, they need look no further than Morey and DeOssie.

“They’re role models for the guys on our team – both were outstanding students, and both are incredibly hardworking,” Perry said.

“We tell all the guys to play the game the way those guys played it, and to see them reap the rewards of that is a pretty powerful motivational tool,” he added.