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Head coach of the Wildcats in 2001-02, assistant coach in 1997-2000
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Guy Morriss, former head coach and assistant head coach of the University of Kentucky football team, died Monday at the age of 71 in Danville.
“Guy Morriss provided steady leadership for our football program at a time of significant uncertainty,” said Kentucky Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart, who arrived at UK in 2002 and worked with Morriss that season. “He was both liked and respected by the players, who responded to his fair, no-nonsense approach with their best efforts. His six years at UK feature some of the best players and most exciting moments in our history. He will be deeply missed and our condolences are with (wife) Jackie, their children, family and friends.”
Morriss arrived in Lexington in 1997 as assistant head coach and offensive line coach under Hal Mumme. Morriss’ offensive lines provided the pass protection and running holes for the record-setting offenses directed by quarterbacks Tim Couch (1997-98), Dusty Bonner (1999) and Jared Lorenzen (2000). Couch set numerous UK, Southeastern Conference and NCAA records while leading the Wildcats, highlighted by the first win over Alabama in 75 years during the 1997 season and a 7-4 regular-season record and trip to the Outback Bowl – UK’s first New Year’s Day bowl appearance in 47 years – during the 1998 season.
Despite losing all five offensive line starters from the ’98 team, Morriss rebuilt the line that helped Bonner and the Wildcats go 6-5 in the 1999 regular season and advance to the HomePoint.com Music City Bowl. Running back Anthony White became only the third player in NCAA history to total at least 1,500 rushing yards and 1,500 receiving yards during a career. Lorenzen took over at QB in 2000 and set numerous UK, Southeastern Conference and NCAA records during that season.
Two of Morriss’ linemen, guard John Schlarman in 1997 and tackle Kris Comstock in 1998, earned first-team All-SEC honors. Tackle Omar Smith was a second-team All-SEC choice in 2000, Two linemen, guard Kip Sixbery in 1999 and tackle Antonio Hall in 2000, were Freshman All-America selections.
When Mumme resigned following the 2000 season, Morriss was appointed head coach while Kentucky was being investigated for NCAA rules violations. The Wildcats went 2-9 in 2001, and in January 2002, found out that NCAA penalties included a one-year bowl ban. Despite no hope for postseason action in the ’02 campaign, Morriss’ team got strong leadership from Lorenzen, wide receiver/kick returner Derek Abney, running back Artose Pinner and linebacker Ronnie Riley while turning in a remarkable season.
Kentucky opened 2002 with a shocking 22-17 upset at No. 17-ranked Louisville. UK got off to a 4-0 start for the first time in 18 years and went on to post a 7-5 final mark. Abney returned six kicks for touchdowns (four punts, two kickoffs) and set a bundle of NCAA, SEC and UK records while earning consensus first-team All-America honors. Punter Glenn Pakulak joined him on the All-America team. Pinner led the SEC in rushing with 1,414 yards and was named All-SEC along with Abney, Pakulak, offensive tackle Antonio Hall, defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson and defensive end Vincent “Sweet Pea” Burns.
After the season, Morriss returned to his native Texas as head coach of the Baylor Bears from 2003-07. After a year as line coach at Kentucky State University, he became head coach at Texas A&M-Commerce from 2009-12. Returning to Kentucky for good, he was the line coach at Warren Central High School in Bowling Green (2014) and Lexington Christian Academy (2015) before retiring.
Born in Colorado City, Texas, Morriss was an All-Southwest Conference offensive guard at Texas Christian University. He went on to a 15-year career in the National Football League, including the Philadelphia Eagles from 1973-83 and the New England Patriots from 1984-87. He played in two Super Bowls, one with each team, and was an All-Pro selection in 1981.
Morriss entered the coaching ranks as offensive line coach at New England (1988-89). He was head coach of the Washington Marauders of the Professional Spring Football League in 1992. He entered collegiate coaching as offensive line coach under Mumme at Valdosta State in 1992-93, also guiding the O-Lines for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals (1994), San Antonio of the Canadian Football League (1995) and Mississippi State (1996) before rejoining Mumme at UK.
Morriss is survived by his wife, Jackie, their daughters, Colleen, Kerry, Savannah and Austin, and five grandchildren.