When Vanderbilt came calling early in the process, Morse chose the Commodores, and he’s stayed with that choice. Much of the reason can be attributed to academics.
A private university that plays in the Southeastern Conference, Vanderbilt has often struggled to bring in top-notch athletes who can also make the cut academically.
It’s not surprising to see academics get pushed to the backburner when young men are preparing to sign athletic scholarships. While it is a big consideration for many, it’s often not the deciding factor.
Morse sees Vanderbilt as taking care of each issue.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” Morse said.
“It turned out he was better than I knew he was. I didn’t want him to have regrets. He wouldn’t have known he could make it at the next level if I hadn’t moved him.”
After making that choice, Tammy said she’s ecstatic to see him make a choice now that’s based on academics. Two great aunts, a great uncle, a handful of cousins and Tammy Morse’s two brothers also attended Vanderbilt. That also factored into Morse’s decision.
“Both my brothers had a big influence,” Tammy said. “They told him he was crazy if he didn’t go there. Jared wants to play pro football, but he understands having a degree from Vanderbilt is very good for his career selection. He’ll have more options. He needs to tap out his potential academically, as well.”
Handley High’s Taylon Hunter had Duke as his frontrunner for a long time, although he’ll sign with Southern Illinois today. His teammate Ladarious Phillips has Duke among his top three to choose from today.
Like Vanderbilt, Duke is well known for its academics. While each player said the academics was important, that’s not what it comes down to in the end.
“It’s a big factor because you always want to play somewhere to be able to get an education. Football isn’t forever,” Phillips said. “Some (players) forget about academics. They think they’re going to make it to the league, but you’ve got to look at your future. Everyone doesn’t make it to the league. You need to get a degree.”
Although he knows the importance of getting his college education, Phillips said it still comes down to being comfortable with a school, the coach and its players.
“You have to look at if you feel comfortable,” Phillips said. “If you don’t like it, you’re not going to stay.”
Hunter, a linebacker, acknowledges that Southern Illinois doesn’t have the reputation for academics that Duke has. Still, he knows how important it will be.
“Academics, no doubt, are still a main priority,” Hunter said. “I want to go and get my degree and be able to play in a great football program. Duke is great, but I just really didn’t have the time with Duke that I had with Southern Illinois, as far as a commitment with the coaches.
“I felt not just a connection as a football player, but as someone they were trying to understand as Taylon Hunter, not just a linebacker.”
“You get a top education and it’s in a top conference so you can go to the NFL. It’s tough to win there, but it gives me some recognition for going pro. If you’re playing in the SEC, you will get noticed.”
Morse left Donoho after his sophomore football season, transferring to Oxford for a potential shot at earning an athletic scholarship. His mother, Tammy Morse, said it was not an easy decision for her to make.
“I really did struggle with it,” Tammy said. “I said he could get an academic scholarship more likely than he was to get a football scholarship. But I knew he wouldn’t get the recognition athletically he’d get at Oxford, and I didn’t want him to regret not getting a shot at it.