On Thursday, January 15th, the Morris Trophy will be presented for the 35th time at a luncheon at the Washington Athletic Club in downtown Seattle. The award honors the top offensive lineman, and top defensive lineman, in the PAC 12 conference and is voted on by the players who play those positions. This year’s winners are OT Andrus Peat of Stanford and DL Nate Orchard of Utah. The luncheon is open to the public and the cost is $30. Tickets can be reserved by calling Darin Barr at 206-464-3074.
In 1980, a woman named Traci Morris was attending a University of Washington football game and wondered aloud whether or not there was an award recognizing the efforts of the behemoths up front on both sides of the ball.
There was, in fact, the Outland Trophy, given annually to America’s top college football lineman. But Morris was thinking more locally than globally and quickly hatched an idea to honor the linemen in the then Pacific 10 Conference. Her plan: give an award to the top offensive and defensive linemen in the league. The hook? Have the players themselves vote on the award.
Every offensive lineman in the league would vote for the best D lineman, with the defensive guys returning the favor. She took her idea to Washington head football coach Don James who loved the plan. UW Athletic Director Mike Lude stepped in and took the idea to his peers in the league and in short order, the Morris Trophy was born.
The first winners in 1980 were Oregon defensive tackle Vince Goldsmith and USC guard Roy Foster (who would become the first two time winner the following year). Washington and Washington State players dominated the awards early years winning 13 of the 30 trophies handed out in the first 15 years of the award.
Somewhere along the way, the yearly football banquet where the award was given ceased to exist. With no banquet and no place to present the award the decision was made to present it annually at an event in Palo Alto, California. The award remained there for several years until a group of Seattle football fans affiliated with the Washington Athletic Club made the decision to bring the trophy back to its’ rightful home in Seattle. The WAC and the organization’s 101 Club host the yearly luncheon.
This year’s winners are 6’6″ 315 pound OT Andrus Peat of Stanford and Utah DE Nate Orchard who is 6’4″ and 255 pounds. Both players are listed as top prospects at their positions in this year’s NFL draft which is appropriate since 11 of the last 14 winners of the award played in the league this season. Peat and Orchard will be at the lunch. The keynote speaker this year is 2000 Morris Trophy Award winner Chad Ward from the University of Washington.
The Morris Trophy is a unique part of Seattle football history. The way the Morris Trophy is set up with players voting for other players, is perfect for our city’s way of doing things, and the fact that it honors linemen is fits the rugged Pacific Northwest where we’ve always appreciated the hard work being done in the football trenches. That it was conceived by a fan in the stands at a game is also appropriate given the fact that Seattle is home to America’s loudest and most enthusiastic football fans. Throw in the part about Don James being involved at the very beginning and you really cover just about every base.
We’re in the middle of a great week for football fans in Seattle. What better way to spend an hour of your time on Thursday than at a lunch honoring two future NFL stars? The lunch is $30 and is open to the public. Tickets can be reserved by calling Darin Barr at 206-464-3074.