Dave Reardon: Hawaii QB Morris is a triple threat
Plenty of coaches use a backup quarterback for a change of pace in certain situations. So Dalen Morris’ role on the University of Hawaii football team is nothing unique. But what he does away from the field is far from typical for any college student athlete.
When Morris is not in a football uniform, there’s a good chance he’s in another one — that of a United States naval officer. Morris was recently promoted from ensign to lieutenant junior grade. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a commission as an active duty officer.
Countless military veterans, reservists and officer trainees have played college sports. But this is something completely different, competing as a college athlete while on active duty. There are no rules against it, except for the one requiring human beings to sleep once in a while, and the other preventing them from being in two places at the same time.
You have to be a full-time student to play intercollegiate sports. When you’re on active duty, you technically belong to Uncle Sam 24-7. Email icon Don't miss out on what's happening! Stay in touch with top news, as it happens, conveniently in your email inbox.
In the Navy, he has shore duty in Wahiawa as a cryptologic warfare officer. “I knew I was coming to Hawaii in April of 2021, and got here in February ’22, and enrolled in (graduate) classes,” Morris said during spring camp. He had to make the team at a walk-on tryout.
But with endorsements from several Navy teammates and coaches from Hawaii and UH, navigating his way onto the Warriors roster seemed natural. “He was one of my favorites to be around while at Navy,” said Billy Ray Stutzmann, a former UH receiver and Midshipmen assistant. “He’s got a bright future whatever he pursues.
” So far, balancing his service duties, school and football has worked out. But it still seems crazy, even for a military academy graduate used to accounting for every minute of every day. “You gotta be great with time management,” Morris said.
“For right now I’m on the second (work) shift, from 1400 to 2200 (2 p. m. to 10 p.
m. ), which matches up well with practice and school. ” A long road trip like the one for last week’s season opener at Vanderbilt makes things more complicated.
But UH coach Timmy Chang said the Navy has been helpful. “We give them our schedule, and they’re pretty flexible,” he said. Morris knows that can change at any time, and orders are orders.
“I’m at the bottom of the totem pole, and anything can happen,” he said. He can’t talk about specifics of his work, but here’s the job description: “CW Officers create warfighting options for Fleet Commanders to fight and win in the information age. They deliver and operate reliable, secure and battle-ready global networks, and lead in development and integration of (Information Officer) capabilities in the Fleet,” according to Navy recruiting literature.
That sounds like a good skill set for a future coach or analyst. But for one more season, Morris is still a player — one that can impact a game even if he’s in for just a few plays. He showed that Saturday when he found the end zone twice in goal line situations.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, only one of Morris’ 1-yard touchdown runs counted in the 35-28 loss. The first was negated by a penalty against UH that was followed by a turnover. It was Morris’ first game action since 2020, when he opened the season as Navy’s starting quarterback and played in nine games.
His career highlight was coming off the bench in the second game of that season to lead the biggest comeback in program history; the Midshipmen beat Tulane 27-24 after trailing 24-0 at halftime. Navy listed him as a senior then. He qualifies to play this year because of the additional season granted to most college athletes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He’s a special kid,” Chang said. “He’s talking about going to law school, too. ” .