Nazareth quarterback J.J. McCarthy has an elementary request for Tyler Morris.
After watching Morris stand out on the field in his freshman season to help Nazareth capture a Class 7A state championship, McCarthy, a Michigan recruit, elected to keep his goals simple for his rising sophomore wide receiver.
“I wish he would smile a little more,” McCarthy said, laughing. “He looks like he’s not having fun. He should be having the time of his life.”
Streaking past a Hinsdale South defensive back during a 7-on-7 session June 19, in a blur of Columbia blue, navy and white, Morris hauled in a long touchdown pass from McCarthy.
To his reputation, Morris kept his celebration muted.
Nazareth coach Tim Racki, a former collegiate player at Southern Illinois, noted that Morris is a cerebral player focused on setting and achieving his lofty athletic and academic goals. He called Morris a one-of-a-kind player in his illustrious career that’s included seven state titles.
“(Tyler) is the most mature young player that I have ever had,” Racki said. “He’s showed tremendous mental toughness for his age. He just quietly became a starter, and the kids quickly embraced him because he was humble, modest and a nice kid and never complained.
“He’s more introverted and stoic and serious, but there’s nothing wrong with that. He does have fun, does smile. He’s focused on the field and driven in the classroom, too.”
Morris might prefer to keep quiet on the field, but his game is creating plenty of attention – from opponents, scouting services and colleges.
The 6-foot, 165-pound Morris is drawing interest from Power Five schools. He has offers from Notre Dame, Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Arizona State.
After earning a promotion to Nazareth’s stacked varsity team and being named a starter, Morris hauled in 22 receptions for 419 yards and three touchdowns last season.
Morris said he exceeded his own projections last season.
“I think it actually went a little better than I thought it was going to go,” Morris said, cracking a smile. “I had high expectations and expected to play varsity, but not do as good as I did.”
The scary aspect, for opponents, is Morris is starting to get comfortable on the varsity.
“It’s easier now coming in knowing people and knowing plays and how everything is run, just being more comfortable with the program,” he said.
Recruiting analyst Tim O’Halloran of EdgyTim.com said Morris, an honors student, has a broad appeal that’s helped attract interest from colleges. The presence of McCarthy, the No. 2-ranked pro-style quarterback in the country for the Class of 2021, has helped bring “more eyeballs” for every Nazareth player, O’Halloran said.
“He just has the look, from being physical mature, great size and strength and he runs really well,” O’Halloran said. “He’s really talented and a versatile kid who can play wide receiver, running back and a lot of different spots.
“He’s a really good down-to-earth kid, kind of quiet. You understand the appeal of why he has so many offers.”
Morris said he doesn’t let the recruiting process bother him.
Morris started playing football in kindergarten at the urging of his father. He’s been working on getting better off the line and on his route running to help offset the loss of Suburban Life Player of the Year Michael Love.
Morris isn’t shy about listing his goals for this season.
“I want to have a big year with over 1,000 yards receiving,” he said. “I want it to be big.”
McCarthy said Morris possesses all the physical and mental traits to be a big-time receiver.
“I keep seeing him progress every year, which is a good thing for us and these college coaches,” McCarthy said. “He’s going to be something special.”
He already is.