Friday, June 03, 2016

A Familiar Name

More alert eyes than mine have turned up a story about Dartmouth javelin thrower/artist Moriah Morton HERE. Not mentioned in the story is that the talented athlete from nearby Lebanon spent a year on the Big Green basketball team.

Also missing from the story is that Morton is the daughter of former Dartmouth wide receiver Craig Morton '89. If not the single most exciting player I've seen in a Big Green uniform Craig is certainly high on the list.

I first heard of the Plymouth Fury (our nickname for him because he came from Plymouth, Mich., and could run like the wind) after his debut with the Pea Green freshman football team. (Freshmen were not allowed to play varsity at the time.) All the 6-foot, 170-pound speedster did in a 21-17 win over Princeton was catch five passes for 188 yards, including touchdowns of 98, 53 and 20 yards. He finished his freshman season with 21 catches for 718 yards for an astounding 34.2 yards per reception. He caught nine touchdown passes while the rest of the team accounted for five more touchdowns of any sort.

I distinctly remember a year later head coach Joe Yukica telling me, and almost laughing as he did, that he was going to streak Morton down the field against Holy Cross at the start of the game in Worcester a few days later and the Crusaders wouldn't know what hit them. Sure enough, on Dartmouth's second snap of the day, Morton hauled in a 64-yard touchdown pass from David Gabianelli (who also has a daughter now at Dartmouth).

Craig Morton making a grab at Navy.
How did Yukica know that Morton could do damage against Holy Cross? In the first half of the previous week's game at Navy he caught 174 yards worth of passes. Included were bombs of 55 and 47 yards.

The Midshipmen adjusted at halftime but Morton's final line of nine catches for 191 yards was an eye-opener in a 45-0 loss.

Morton finished his sophomore season with 44 catches for 1,063 yards and a record 24.2-yard average that still stands. Lest that 98-yard TD catch as a freshman seem a fluke, he had another 98-yarder against Columbia in his first varsity season. He finished the year with 10 touchdown catches.

Although shoulder problems would hamper him, Morton closed out his career with 138 catches for 2,605 yards (18.9 yards per catch) and 19 touchdowns.

Morton was the rare Ivy League wide receiver ever invited to the NFL Combine but eager to get on with life after football, the deeply religious young man proceeded to tell NFL teams he would not be pursuing a pro career. After a change of heart, he played for John Elway's dad, Jack, with the Frankfurt Galaxy in the World League of American Football in 1991. He caught 17 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns in a 10-game season, averaging a healthy 15.5 yards per reception after being signed by general manager Oliver Luck, Andrew's dad ;-)

Morton went on to work in computers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center before earning his Masters of Divinity degree. Today he and wife, Karen '88, are co-pastors of the Wellspring Worship Center. (LINK) on Main Street in West Lebanon, just down the hill from Hanover.

Interestingly, Casey Cramer, one of the players who eventually surpassed Morton on the Dartmouth career receiving charts, is today pastor of Children and Families Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tenn., and chaplain to the Tennessee Titans. Cramer played several years for the team. (LINK)