Taji Morris Sits Down to Discuss BC Football
Oct. 31, 2007
Senior cornerback Taji Morris has made 26 tackles in eight games this season, while recording one interception and one forced fumble. The Edgewater Park, N.J., native's three tackles-for-loss place him in a tie for sixth on the team in that category. Morris and the second-ranked Eagles (8-0, 4-0 ACC) host Florida State on Saturday, November 3 at 8 p.m.
Talk about the atmosphere on campus right now regarding BC football. How does it differ from the four previous years you've been here?
We're getting a lot more attention. People are coming up to us and congratulating us a lot more. I mean, we've won every game, so people are congratulating us. It's just a lot more fun, not just because we're winning. I think the team is a little more laid back and having more fun with playing. I'm a senior, so a lot of the guys I hang out with are fifth-year seniors as well, and we're just taking it one step at a time. I think the whole atmosphere in general, not just on campus, but within the team, is a lot more laid back and a lot more fun.
Hundreds of students and neighboring fans waited to greet the team upon its arrival back on campus early Friday morning at around 4:15 a.m. What was that moment like for you guys?
It was special. They actually told us that there were people outside before we got there, so they kind of took away the surprise of it. Still, a lot of guys were like, "Wow!" They said there were people out there, but we didn't think it was going to be that many people. It just feels good to feel the love from everybody and the support from all our friends and classmates. It just feels good, you know? And it's adding fuel to the fire. Now we're playing for us, playing for the school, playing for BC pride, and all that. It's cool.
We witnessed an amazing comeback victory on Thursday night at Virginia Tech. Tell us about this team's will to win.
After we won the first three or four games, it seems like after every win we're starting to believe. At the beginning of the season, you know everybody wants to go out and win every game and you just have to find out where your team is at. You play a few games, figure out where your team is at. Now that we've won six, seven, eight games in a row, it's like, "We're here. We can do this." So with every win, it just adds more fuel. The season is magical, but within the locker room we can't think of it like that. We have to think of it like we're supposed to win.
The defensive unit did a great job on Thursday of getting the ball back in Matt Ryan's hands. What is the mindset of the defense during a game, especially when things aren't going well for the offense?
We just stay out there and work as hard as we can to keep getting the ball into the offense's hands. When we were playing Virginia Tech, we gave up only 10 points and Coach Spaziani told us that we just had to keep giving the offense the ball. Matt's a good player. It was raining outside, the conditions were bad. He's a good player. He's one of the best players in the country, so with those types of players you just have to keep giving them the ball. If you give Matt enough chances it'll happen because he's too good not to score. That's our goal pretty much every time, just get the ball back into Matt's hands so we can score points. We feel that if we stop the opposing team, it's like scoring, because we know that at any given moment, Matt [Ryan], Andre [Callendar], L.V. [Whitworth], B-Rob [Brandon Robinson], anybody can score.
In a grueling, defensive battle like the one we saw against Virginia Tech, how do you guys keep each other up?
I don't know. We all love playing the game. We have a lot of seniors on defense, so when you look to your left and your right and you see guys you've been playing with for the last three or four years, it's not hard. You know that someone has your back and you know that you need to have his back. So it's not hard to stay up, especially when you're in the middle of a game. If it's cold, everyone is cold. If it's raining, everybody is wet and miserable. You know that you're playing for those guys next to you and it's not hard to stay up.
Is all of the media attention and hype distracting to you or does it motivate you to play harder? Or do you just ignore it?
I'm sure it's different for everybody, but I love it. This is what I play sports for. I guess some people treat it differently. I know some people ignore it. I know some people choose not to get into the hype. I read it and take it for what it's worth and play. I love the interviews, I love the TV time. I'm watching ESPN every day - "What are they going to say about us now?" Personally, I love the attention. I wish I was interviewed every day. I'm trying to sneak behind Matt [Ryan] to get on the camera.
Florida State has a lot of speed and height at the wide receiver position, especially with Greg Carr (6'6) and De'Cody Fagg (6'3). How do you, as a cornerback, plan to cover wide-outs when you have a big height disadvantage?
I'm one of the shortest players on the team (5'9), so I'm always guarding someone taller than I am. You just have to want the ball more. You have to fight. They're good receivers. We've seen a lot of good receivers this year. It's just a matter of watching them on film, seeing what they do, seeing how aggressive they are and just trying to be more aggressive. They're fast. It's funny because every week we play a new team and people say that their receivers are fast and ask, "How are you going to put up with their speed?" I don't know. We're fast too, I guess. It's just another challenge. We prepare every week for a new challenge and we have to just go out there and play hard. A buddy of mine plays for Florida State. He plays defense. His name is Myron Rolle. I was talking to him yesterday and he was asking me, "How are you going to put up with the Florida-caliber speed?" And I go, "I've never heard of Florida-caliber speed."
You have three tackles for loss, one interception, and one forced fumble on the season. What do you attribute to your ability to make the big play?
I was struggling a little bit with injury earlier in my career. This is actually the first time where I'm able to just go out there and relax and feel 100 percent healthy and feel good. I'm not really thinking about anything else, but just playing and having fun. It's my last year. I'm trying not to let any of the outside things get to me, in terms of distracting me. I'm just going out there and playing. If you have so many guys on the team that make plays, it's like when they do something you want to do something next. You want the ball thrown to your side so you can make a play. Whenever the ball comes to me, I try to use it as an opportunity to make something happen. Hopefully the ball is thrown to me a lot this weekend. My dad is going to be here and it's his birthday, so I'm trying to go crazy.
Talk about the cornerback on the other side of the field - DeJuan Tribble. How important is he to the defense?
If not the best corner in the country, he's one of the best corners in the country. Players like that make everyone around them better. Without a doubt, he just makes the defense better. DeJuan and I are really good friends and we're always talking about the game, talking about what I can do better, what he sees out there. I try to watch him because I know he's one of the best players. DeJuan's a good player, but everybody - Jo-Lonn [Dunbar], Jamie [Silva], we all make each other better.
How do you and DeJuan work together on and off the field in improving each other's game?
We came in [to BC] in the same class. We were on the same recruiting visit. We've been talking about the game, about pretty much everything for the last couple of years. We just hang out. Off-campus, we watch film together and we watch with the whole secondary, too. We share tips and tricks - I can't let anybody know about those, though. But we just kick it. It's good to be on a team where you can look around and you're playing with your best friends. It's cool. I know people say they had it in high school, but now it's different because we've been through so much. We've been through seasons where we should have won games. We've been through seasons where we haven't won games. It's good to know that the other person playing out there knows how you feel. We both live off-campus, so we play video games and stuff. And it's competition. And competition is good because you want to try to make each other better. It's not so much X and O terminology with us - me, Jamie [Silva], and [DeJuan] Tribble - because we talk so much. So when it's really loud, we can just make gestures and we know what's going on. We know how it is.
Talk about some guys on the defensive side of the ball that you think have really stepped it up this season.
The whole defense has really stepped it up this year. Tyronne Pruitt has really made a name for himself this year. Jamie Silva, DeJuan Tribble, Paul Anderson at the other safety spot, Mark Herzlich. I really can't think of anybody on defense that no one knows about. Alex Albright has made a big contribution. Nick Larkin is obviously huge on the defensive side of the ball. We have a lot of guys on defense stepping it up. Every play someone else is making something happen.
The position you play dictates that you understand the tendencies of the opposing team's quarterback. In Matt Ryan's case, what would scare you about playing against him?
It's funny because I played against Matt Ryan in high school, so I've been getting beat by Matt Ryan since forever. Matt, he's just smart. The thing about Matt is you can try to figure out what he does, but he knows you're trying to do that. I've tried. I've tried to sit and be like, "Okay, this is what he's going to do when they run this play." But he knows that I'm thinking about that. He the kind of quarterback that's really thinking about what the defense thinks he's going to do. That's how you have to play the game on defense, so it's hard to go up against someone like that. He's just a good quarterback and it's really impossible to stop him. We do know what's coming in practice. We know the play he's going to run, but he still figures it out. He's just a great quarterback.
Coach Jagodzinski has spoken a lot about his philosophy of breaking the season up into four quarters. What is your anticipation for the upcoming fourth quarter and where is there room for improvement?
We can always improve. Every day, every practice, I try to go out and improve something with my game and hopefully within the defense. I'd be lying if I said that there wasn't a game more important than the ACC Championship. But you have to get there first. We're trying to go out and win every game so we have a shot of playing in the ACC Championship. The goal is for us to have a chance at winning the championship, and for us to have a chance, we have to keep winning games.
When you're not in the classroom or on the field, what do you enjoy doing with your free time - any hobbies?
I recently purchased an Xbox 360, so I'm heavy into Halo right now. I try to get some rest. I eat every now and then. I'm really into music. A few guys come around and we record some tracks, I make some beats, and all that. I know everybody does that, but it's kind of something that we do to stay close and get our minds off football. The music is awesome. I was trying to put together a song for the team about the team, but we haven't really had a chance to get around to it. It's fun stuff. Maybe I'll put it up on my Myspace page or something so people can check it out. I read. I know people probably don't believe that, but I read books, too. I don't want to tell you this, but I've been reading the book called The Game. It's an awesome book, by the way. But, yeah, we just hang out and kick it. I sleep a lot, though.
Interview conducted by sophomore Geoffrey Kehlmann