Aaron Morris' rise to football notoriety was sparked, certainly, by his rare combination of size and athleticism.
However, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive tackle from Jackson (Callaway), Miss., said his pursuit of gridiron greatness is motivated by his desire not to disappoint his mother, Logenzia Morris, again.
"When I was in middle school, I quit playing football," Morris said. "My mom was really disappointed. So I went back. I didn't want to disappoint her. That really bothered me."
The subsequent years of hard work have begun to pay off in big ways. On Wednesday, Morris was named to the Rivals250. He is one of five Mississippians on the list, joining Batesville (South Panola) athlete Nickalos Brassell, Madison (Madison Central) wide receiver Tobias Singleton, Philadelphia linebacker C.J. Johnson and Raleigh wide receiver Donte Moncrief.
"It's exciting to me," said Morris, who debuts at No. 249 on the Rivals.com list. "It's an honor that I've accomplished something like that. It means I'm doing something right."
Morris, who has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi, Texas Tech and South Alabama, will be in Oxford this weekend for the Ole Miss Elite Camp.
"They're a good school," Morris said. "I haven't made a top list yet, but they're someone to keep in mind."
Singleton, a 6-2, 187-pounder, is ranked No. 126 on the Rivals.com list.
"It's a blessing to have this talent," said Singleton, who recently listed UCLA as somewhat of a favorite from a list of offers that includes Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Memphis, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Southern Mississippi and Tennessee. "I'm just happy to be in (the Rivals250)."
Singleton is camping at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this week. He hasn't ruled in or out an appearance at Ole Miss' camp this weekend.
Moncrief, who enters the Rivals250 at No. 196, will be in Oxford on Saturday before traveling east to Tuscaloosa for a camp appearance at Alabama on Sunday. The 6-2, 203-pounder is listed as a wide receiver, but several schools have begun to recruit him as a defensive back thanks to multiple strong performances at camps and combines during the spring and early summer.
"A lot of schools like me as a free safety," Moncrief said. "They say I'm like a freak back there because I can run and cover and still come up and hit."
Moncrief said he's open to the idea of playing defense at the college level, though he admitted his heart is on offense, where he is both a deep threat and a dangerous receiver in the open field. Moncrief said his designation as a Rivals250 prospect "made me feel good, but I'm not going to let it go to my head. I'm going to keep playing ball."
Moncrief, who has picked up offers from Ole Miss, Memphis, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, UAB, UCLA, Southern Mississippi and others, admitted that his soaring stock is "kind of shocking. I thought the only schools that would offer me would be the three schools in Mississippi."
Moncrief said he plans to camp at Oklahoma on Thursday before returning to Mississippi for Ole Miss' camp Saturday. He'll be in Tuscaloosa on Sunday.
Johnson, who is No. 130 on the Rivals250, committed to Mississippi State earlier this year. The 6-3, 227-pounder has picked up offers from Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Michigan, Southern Mississippi and Tennessee and appears poised to camp at some of those schools this summer. However, all signs point toward his signing with Mississippi State in February.
Other Ole Miss targets of note on the Rivals250 include Bradenton, Fla., running back Mike Blakely (No. 22); Fort Lauderdale, Fla., safety Wayne Lyons (85); Covington, La., defensive tackle Mickey Johnson (139); Plantation, Fla., outside linebacker Ryan Shazier (165); Miami, Fla., safety Jabari Gorman (167); Memphis, Tenn., tight end Cameron Clear (171); and Miami, Fla., wide receiver Tacoi Sumler (234). Clear said late last week he plans to attend the Ole Miss Elite Camp this weekend.
Brassell is No. 76 on the Rivals250. The top 100 players were announced on Tuesday.
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