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Medford star, Oregon Hall of Famer Jack Morris dies

Arguably one of the best athletes in Medford sports history, former Oregon football standout Jack Morris died April 27 at age 90 at his home in Redmond.

Morris was named to the Oregon Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005, and his statistical achievements are sprinkled throughout the football and track record books at Medford High and Oregon before embarking on a four-year career in the NFL.

A website to mark Morris’ passing of Alzheimer’s disease is at jackeugenemorris.com.

The son of a policeman, Morris first began turning heads on the gridiron at Medford High in the fall of 1948. He and teammate Rich Riggs were a dynamic duo on offense, defense and special teams for first-year head coach Lee Ragsdale.

The Tornado lost to eventual state champion Grants Pass, 13-6, in the semifinals that season but, as usual, Morris had an impact. He scored Medford’s only touchdown on a 99-yard kickoff return and had two other TDs called back.

Morris’ dizzying speed — he turned in a sizzling 100-yard dash time of 9.5 seconds — was unveiled even more in track. He was the high-point man at the Class 4A state track meet in 1949 and 1950, when he won titles in the 200-yard low hurdles, 120-yard high hurdles and anchored Medford’s 880-yard relay teams to victory. The Tornado won the team championship both years.

“When I think of Medford, the memories come flooding back,” Morris said in a 2005 Mail Tribune article while in town with several of his former teammates to pay tribute to the east grandstands at Spiegelberg Stadium, which were brand new in 1948. “Medford was a wonderful place to grow up and play sports.”

The 1950 Medford High grad went through a four-year stint in the Air Force following his freshman year at Oregon before again donning a Webfoots uniform as a fullback, cornerback and kicker. When his Oregon career ended, Morris ranked third in career points scored (130) as well as career rushing yards (1,631).

As a sophomore, Morris set the Ducks’ single-season scoring record (68 points) while initiating his school-record string of 23 consecutive PATs. In 1956, he led the team in rushing as a junior (519 yards).

As a senior Nov. 16, 1957, Morris set an Oregon single-game record at the time when he rushed for 212 yards on just 15 carries in a 16-7 victory over USC. The following day, he was nicknamed “Jack the Jet” in the Pasadena Independent Star News.

The win over the Trojans boosted the Ducks into the 1958 Rose Bowl, where they were heavy underdogs to No. 1-ranked Ohio State. The Buckeyes escaped with a 10-7 victory. Morris ran for 57 yards on 11 carries in a game that also saw Oregon lose the services of offensive guard Harry Mondale — another Rogue Valley star — on the fourth play of the game.

All Morris said he could think about after the game was his 34-yard field goal attempt late in the third quarter that drifted just inches past the left upright.

“I always tell people there was a bad snap and a bad hold,” Morris said in 2005. After a pause, he chuckled and added, “Actually, they were fine. But after 47 years, who would know?”

The Los Angeles Rams selected Morris in the seventh round of the 1956 NFL draft (84th overall) and he later played two seasons with them, most as a defensive back, and then one each with Pittsburgh and Minnesota, which was an expansion team in 1960. He led the Rams in interceptions (6) as a rookie in 1958.

Jack Morris