Michael Morris dotted 23 years as the head football coach of Rio Linda High School with success, winning the Sac-Joaquin title in 2004, fielding 13 playoff teams while amassing 148 victories overall, the most in school history.
Now, he takes the reigns of being American River College’s running backs coach, strengthening a staff that now has four former high school head coaches.
“He brings a wealth of knowledge to our staff,” said ARC head coach Jon Osterhout. “Fortunately for us, there was some interest from coach Morris.”
Morris coached various positions at the high school level on both offense and defense, but has never held a position at the junior college level.
“He’s got expertise in every phase of the game in my mind,” Osterhout said. “He’s just a phenomenal addition to our staff.”
Morris is also the athletic director at Rio Linda, and stepped down voluntarily as head coach in 2013.
Morris said he was burnt out after so many years leading the way and that he knew it was time.
“About two years before I stepped down, I knew it was time,” Morris said.
“There was things a head coach has to do that I started to resent, and I knew it was time.”
Morris never had any intention of giving up coaching altogether, however.
“I knew I loved coaching football, I just didn’t want to be a head coach,” he said.
ARC football has only been in its spring practices for three weeks, and Morris is still getting familiar with the differences between the high school and college level.
“The biggest difference is the competition among the positions,” he said.
“In high school, there’s really not the competition level. Here, I’ve got 13 running backs. So the competition level is way higher.”
Osterhout is “ecstatic” about Morris’s addition, citing his knowledge of the game, experience, and ability to relate to young student athletes.
“It just speaks volumes to our program to bring in quality coaches, but more importantly men of character to teach our student athletes at ARC,” he said.
According to Osterhout, Morris’s addition will also be a huge help in the recruitment process for ARC.
“In the San Joaquin section, everyone knows who Mike Morris is,” he said. “I think its been a huge advantage in the recruitment process.”
Morris’s son, Matthew, is also on the team, but the elder Morris has never actually been his son’s coach.
“I don’t get to watch my son, ever,” he said. “Every day I go home and my wife will ask me ‘How did Matthew do?’ and it’s the same answer.”
The two had the same situation while they were both at Rio Linda, but Morris said it doesn’t bother him much and his focus is on the job.
“I’m in such a habit over the years of paying attention to what I need to pay attention to, it’s not hard for me,” he said.
“I don’t know if he enjoys it, I don’t know if he hates it, but I know he can handle it,” Morris said of his son.
Morris has adjusted well despite his inexperience at the college level, and though the team is only practicing basics and fundamentals at the moment, he’s said he’s enjoying getting acclimated.
“Right now, the thing I’m enjoying the most is being around the staff. They’re a fun group of guys to be around.”
Morris loves coaching, and doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon.
“Having a father that worked in a paper mill his whole life, I’ve seen what having real work is like,” he said. “And I’ve always said: if you love your job, that’s not working.
“My whole life, I’ve always tried to avoid working.”