By Laura Amato
Neko Morris hit send and hoped for the best.
The Springfield Gardens football standout at running back and linebacker was staging his own, one-man recruiting rush, sending out e-mails and film videos to coaches around the country with the hope that, eventually, someone would answer.
He didn’t expect it to be a Division I program.
Morris got an e-mail from coaches at St. Francis in Pennsylvania a month ago, expressing interest in seeing more of his game and eventually meeting him.
Fast forward to last week and Morris and his family were on the campus at St. Francis – certain they’d found the perfect football fit.
I was surprised because it was D-I, and at the same time, I was excited,” said Morris, who officially committed to St. Francis on his visit. “So I answered back that same day he contacted me, like as quickly as I could, so it showed mutual interest. I was just so excited about the opportunity.”
It didn’t take long for Morris to realize St. Francis was exactly where he wanted to be and, even if the opportunity came in a less-than-usual way, he wasn’t going to waste it. Morris has always dreamed of a Division I chance and, now, he’s more determined than ever to prove himself.
“It wasn’t easy,” Morris said. “If you really want to take your athletics to the next level, you’ll do what you have to do to get there and that’s what I was willing to do. I decided that I should contact him and that was, of course, the best decision for me.”
Morris also did his homework when it came to what the Red Flash offered on the field. And he was, once again, pleasantly surprised.
St. Francis won the NEC regular season title last year, earning a top-25 national ranking, before falling to Villanova in the first round of the FCS playoffs. It was the first-ever conference title for the program at the Division I level.
It was also enough for Morris to be sure he could build a future with the team, certain his experience at Springfield Gardens and his speed out of the backfield was an ideal fit with the squad.
“I decided on the spot,” Morris said. “[The coaches] were like, ‘Is this what you want to do or are you still thinking about it?’ And I just said, ‘No, this is where I want to be. This is where I want to play ball.’”
Morris has finally started to let the decision sink in, but he’s quick to point out that his classmates were a bit stunned by the news. He’s also quick to admit that he enjoyed their surprise.
“My friends that I go to school with, they’re still shocked that I’m actually going D-I,” he said. “Everybody at school keeps calling me ‘D-I’ every time they see me.”
It wasn’t conventional, but Morris appreciates every step on the journey that’s led him to a Division I program and another shot at gridiron glory. He’s not expecting anything to be handed to him and, after everything, he’s more than willing to work for whatever’s next.
“It just means that I work harder. Very, very hard and even harder than I have before,” Morris said. “I have to focus on my body, becoming more built for the next level, I have to work on my school work even more and be on top of my books. But I’m ready for all of that. I’m excited.”