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Veteran running back Alfred Morris, a free agent the Giants acquired this past offseason, runs through some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What drives you now?
A: I wanted to stop playing a while ago. I was kind of done. The way my journey kind of unfolded is not the way I wanted it to go, or the way I thought it would go. Last year, I unofficially retired for like three days (laugh). I feel like in prayer, the Lord told me that I was not done, He still had something for me to do in the NFL. So I believed Him, I trusted Him, I kept training even when it didn’t look like anybody would call me.
Q: Why did you decide to retire?
A: The game of football can be really hard. It’s gonna be great when you’re on the mountaintop, but you can also be in the valley as well — like ebbs and flows, a roller coaster, it’s up and down, it’s up and down. It was hard on me, but it was also hard on my wife and my family. When a 4-year-old tells you that he doesn’t want to play football because he doesn’t want to get cut, that says something to you. I told my wife one day: “If I’m not picked up by March or something like that, then I’m done. I’m retiring. I’m gonna be done with it.”
Q: Describe your on-field mentality.
A: I flip the switch. I’m like one of the nicest guys you’ll meet off the field, I smile, I laugh, I joke, I’m cordial with everyone. But on the field I really don’t like people (laugh). My mindset is that one person can’t bring me down. The best you can do is hold me and let a teammate come help you, you’re not gonna take me down by yourself. Every single play’s my last play ’cause I’m not promised another play, I’m not promised tomorrow, not promised the next day, the next minute. I still laugh and smile and stuff on the sideline, and sometimes between plays, but when the ball’s snapped, I’m ready to destroy anybody that gets in my way (laugh).
Q: Why do you think you’re that way?
A: I think all that stuff stems from just growing up. Everything I’ve gotten, nothing was ever given to me, everything I’ve gotten has been earned. I didn’t go to a big college, I didn’t get heavily recruited out of high school. Coming from FAU [Florida Atlantic] was not easy. My senior year, we were 1-11, but yet I played in the Senior Bowl, I got drafted, I went to the NFL Combine. … I always was competing against like ghosts. I couldn’t see the other running backs at the University of Alabama, the Louisiana-Monroes and the LSUs, whatever. There’s only 32 starting spots in the NFL. I didn’t want to be a backup. Somebody’s not gonna get one of those jobs, and I was like, “I want one of these jobs.” I had to find a way to set myself apart from these other guys. … Just seeing my mom, raising six boys, working a full-time job even in high school, my mom has a Master’s degree, just grinding it out. … If I forget where I came from, then I’ll forget where I’m going.
Q: That was your frame of mind at FAU?
A: I’ve always wanted to compete against people I could not see. Even in high school, I felt like I should have got offers by bigger schools. I grew up in Pensacola, I was a big Florida State fan. But everything happens for a reason, that was the perfect college experience for me. Most of the people who looked at me was for linebacker. It was like two or three schools that looked at me for running back. And actually I went to FAU as a fullback.
Q: Has your career been what you expected it to be?
A: Oh, definitely not (laugh). I went from my first four years starting every single game [for Washington] to backing up to being inactive to getting cut [with the Cowboys, 49ers and Cardinals] to not getting with a team. . … I thought I was gonna start, start, start, get a big contract, things like that, but it just never played out that way for me.
Q: So you don’t think you’ve fulfilled your own expectations?
A: I thought it was gonna be a 7 out of 10, to me it was like a 4 out of 10, and that wasn’t good enough. So I kind of struggled with it. I made my peace with it, and I was able to see that my career was not a waste. I’ve done a lot of things that a lot of people won’t do or can’t do. My dream was I wanted to play against the best of the best and be successful, and I’ve done that, and I’ve done it time and time again on the highest of levels. I got lost on what the measure of success to me. Once I found it again, I realized my career had been a success. Has it gone the way I wanted it to go? No, not at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a success, because it is.
Q: Describe your running style.
A: Old school. Kind of like the Walter Paytons, or even Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, some of the older guys.
Q: Describe your offensive line.
A: Every week they’re getting better and better, they’re learning each other, they’re communicating a lot better. I think they’re still on the up and up.
Q: How would you describe their mentality on the field?
A: When you watch the games, watch [center] Nick Gates, and that’s the epitome of our O-line. His nastiness, his finishing, but doing it between the whistles. He’s getting after every single person he can while he can. He does it again and again and again. He just kind of like electrifies the other four right along with him. It excites me as a runner.
Q: Describe Wayne Gallman.
A: I think he’s a really patient runner, he has great vision. His running style is unique for him and it works for him and it works in this offense. I think he can do it all. I think my favorite things about him are his vision and his tenacity, like he runs so tough, and even though he’s not like a really big guy — he’s not small by any means — but he runs bigger than he is, and I love that about him.
Q: Saquon Barkley?
A: He’s one of those guys you never know what’s gonna happen when he gets the ball.
Q: What did you learn about Jason Garrett when you played for him in Dallas?
A: I like the way he carries himself. I always thought he was a really good play-caller, I thought he was a very intellectual guy. I always enjoyed conversations not just about football, but about life with him. I think he definitely will get another shot at head coach one of these days.
Q: You exploded onto the NFL as a rookie in Washington in 2012.
A. I definitely didn’t think I was gonna start right away from Game 1. My whole thing going in there was if I could get my foot in the door, I’m gonna kick it wide open. That was a really fun ride.
Q: Describe Robert Griffin III as a rookie that season.
A: He was phenomenal. I still feel he still has juice in his tank. He came in and made such a splash and kind of put a lot of teams on notice (laugh) and just made a name for himself. It was fun to be a part of that.
Q: Who was your favorite running back?
A: Walter Payton. Probably my favorite football player ever. I remember doing a report on him when I was in middle school.
Q: If you could test your skills one-on-one in the open field with anyone in NFL history, who would it be?
A: Ray Lewis, without a doubt. I actually had a chance to meet him one time. My rookie year we played them, he tore his bicep, he came back the game after and I was so disappointed, I wanted to play against him and I didn’t get the opportunity.
Q: If you could pick the brain of any running back in NFL history?
A: Barry Sanders. I had good O-lines, but not great. I feel like he was able to be very productive in situations that were not ideal for him.
Q: When did your NFL dream begin?
A: I guess at 6 years old, I knew it then, and I’m still here. My dad told me that I came to him: “Dad, I’m gonna play in the NFL.”
Q: Describe your “stadium family” in Washington.
A: My rookie year I was there so early, like three hours before the stadium opened, I just didn’t want to sit in the locker room, so one day I decided to jump over the wall and sit in the stands, and one of the guest services guys came down and we start talking. The whole time we just talked about life, and it was really cool and I enjoyed that a lot. … And then before you know it, a couple of other people come down. It became my thing — I would go early, they’d be waiting for me. … Before you know it, it would be like 20-plus (laugh). Steve Poindexter was the very first person. When I went to Dallas, I did it too. That was like a reunion.
Q: You saw your FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger last October at the school’s Hall of Fame ceremony?
A: He’s just like such a figure (laugh), when he stands on the field, he smokes his pipe and stuff, that’s the coach I remember, and it was hard to see him in a wheelchair and declining health. That kind of hurt my heart. I’ll always have love for Coach Howard Schnellenberger, for a lot of reasons.
Q: How difficult was it growing up?
A: It was hard, but it could have been worse. We always had running water, we always had lights on, we always had a meal on the table. The times it hit harder, especially as a young kid, was Christmas sometimes, getting toys and stuff. We would go to some of the toy drives, like giveaway types of things and get toys and stuff that way. But when you wake up and you have a Christmas tree and there’s no presents under that Christmas tree, you kind of like buy those board games and stuff and wrap ’em so it looks like you had presents under the Christmas tree. We had everything that we needed to survive. We maybe didn’t have much, but we had each other.
Q: What was it like growing up with six brothers?
A: It was fun (laugh).
Q: When your aunt and her two kids moved in temporarily, there were nine kids in a three-bedroom house?
A: It could be all nine in the same bedroom sometimes (laugh). We had bunk beds. Basically you had two to a bed for the most part. We made it work, though.
Q: You had a rough patch during your junior year at Florida Atlantic?
A: I dated a girl back home a lot for a long time, that was probably one of those times when I think it was over, and that was hard. Just the stress of having enough money to provide for myself for food and things like that, the workload of school.
Q: Why did the relationship break up?
A: I asked her, “You don’t love me the way that I love you, or the way you once loved me before,” and she goes, “No.” That kind of hurt me but I appreciate the honesty.
Q: Is that the one that cheated on you?
A: I had plenty of girls cheat on me (laugh), but I don’t think she ever cheated on me, no. But the first girl I ever dated in grade school, my first real girlfriend, she cheated on me — found out on Valentine’s Day. At the movie theater, when I was with five or six friends.
Q: Was that embarrassing?
A: Of course it was embarrassing. I had bought her like a card and candies and flowers and balloons and all that stuff. That was her actual like boyfriend, I just was like a second boyfriend (laugh).
Q: When were you going to give the flowers and stuff to her?
A: I gave it to her at school. That was eighth grade.
Q: Are you still driving the car you named Bentley?
A: I need to ask my wife to start it before the battery dies (laugh).
Q: How many miles are on it?
A: It’s a lot. The car’s [1991 Mazda 626] a year older than my wife. I don’t know how many miles, but actually I have to get my plates changed. My plates are expired, I don’t want to get a ticket and get pulled over and get thrown in jail.
Q: Why do you still have it?
A: It means a lot, so I decided to keep it. I bought the car for $2, and I assure you I can sell it for a lot more than I bought it for.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Allen Iverson, Abraham Lincoln, Adam Sandler.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Love & Basketball.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Will Smith.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Sandra Bullock.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Any food is my favorite food. That’s why I thankful I still play football, so I can burn all the calories off (laugh).