There’s more than one way to reach the big game.
For Briarcrest Christian School graduate Michael Oher, his journey was storybook and he’ll start on the offensive line for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Feb. 3, when they play the San Francisco 49ers at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Morgan Cox’s path here was not the stuff of books and movies – or even many newspaper articles. Cox, a 2005 graduate of Evangelical Christian School, walked on at the University Tennessee as a long snapper. He then made the Ravens’ 2010 roster as an undrafted free agent.
“I remember seeing (Oher) the first time, in the ECS gym (Oher also played basketball) and I looked across the gym and it was like, ‘I gotta go against that guy?’” Cox said. “But it’s amazing the passion we both have and that we ended up in the same place. I love Mike and he’s been a great friend to me from the day I set foot in the Ravens’ complex.”
He doesn’t get the publicity of other players – including fellow Memphian Michael Oher – but Baltimore Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox, an Evangelical Christian School grad, gets his shot at a Super Bowl ring.
(Photo: Courtesy of Baltimore Ravens)
Oher, of course, played at Ole Miss and was the subject of the book “The Blind Side,” by Michael Lewis, and the movie of the same name. Oher’s NFL destiny was assumed for some time. Likewise, there seems little doubt that another ECS graduate, All-American offensive lineman Barrett Jones – he of three national championships with Alabama – is headed to the NFL.
But long snapping is perhaps the most specialized of jobs, the task as anonymous as it is necessary – unless and until something goes horribly wrong.
“There’s a lot of guys that go up there and try to be long snappers,” said Jim Heinz, who coached Cox and Jones at ECS and is now Briarcrest’s Middle School athletic director and the defensive coordinator for the high school’s varsity. “It doesn’t take but one or two little mess-ups, not hitting the punter’s or the holder’s hands just right, and they’re not going to be there very long.”
Cox became a long snapper the way most of them do: when he proved he could do it and others couldn’t. For him, that moment came when he was playing youth football in Collierville. He recalls his first attempts weren’t so good, but after a little coaching from his father he improved and the years that followed a familiar scenario played out.
“Whenever a coach would say, ‘who can long snap?’ I’d raise my hand at the beginning of the season and it just progressed from there,” Cox said.
He makes it sound almost easy, but in the NFL no one wants to hear about a long snapper’s pain. So late in the 2010 season when he tore his ACL in a game at Cleveland, he played on and snapped on three punts, two field goals and two extra-points even though he could not block or run normally.
Even now Cox doesn’t talk about what he did – he won the Ravens’ courage award that off-season for his on-field toughness and off-the-field charity work – but rather how others reached out to him and helped him through his rehab. That jibes with the kid ECS Head of School Bryan Miller remembers.
“He is quality through and through,” Miller said.
He now not only shares a locker room with Oher, but future Hall-of-Fame linebacker Ray Lewis and quarterback Joe Flacco. Cox calls the latter a “cool cat” and says of Lewis’ speeches to the team, “When he talks, everybody obviously stops.”
But back at ECS, it is Cox who is the big deal. On Friday, Feb. 1, faculty and students were to wear black and purple in honor of Cox and the Ravens – the “brainchild,” Miller says, of alumni director Karen Jamison. There’s also a video on the website, www.ecseagles.com, that pays tribute to Cox, No. 46 in your program and clearly first in the hearts of those who know him best.
“I’ve always liked San Francisco,” Heinz admitted, “but you can’t pull against guys you coached, or coached against. So I’m pulling for the Ravens and he’ll do his job. I’ve got all the confidence in the world Morgan will have a great day.”
An anonymous day.