Aug 28, 2009 Walt Shepperd Uncategorized
Why the Shock is no surprize: Terry Morgan reflects the semi-pro tradition.
When the Syracuse Shock takes the field at Henninger High School Saturday, Aug. 29, at 6:30 p.m., the city’s semi-pro football team will be thinking, PLAYOFFS. And no wonder. Post season play has been the tradition for several incarnations of local teams at that level, with players driven totally by love for the game. Three times over the past quarter century, the post season has ended with national championships.
Terry Morgan started playing football at the age of seven for the Sherman Park Bulldogs in the Pop Warner League. He played at Nottingham High School and the University of Buffalo, and settled in as linebacker on the semi-pro circuit eleven years ago. Now 34, he works out daily at the Downtown Y. But lately his body has been talking to him. He says he feels like Bret Favre, unsure if he can play beyond this season.
When they take the field Saturday night, the Shock will also be thinking, REVENGE. Their opponent is long time rival Rochester (Monroe County Sting). Earlier in the season the Shock lost to Rochester, as well as to somewhat lesser rival Albany. With the record at 5 and 2, tickets are $5 ($3 for students and seniors, 12 and under free) with concessions and booster products available. For information, call 200-2514.
Where did it start for you?
Once I played my first game, I was hooked. I knew it was something I wanted to do long term. My experience through the years has taken me through all 22 positions on the field. I come from a big family. My cousins were Nottingham Bulldogs. Because they were older than me, I looked up to them. They were my idols, also Dorsey Levens. I watched them and I said, “That’s what I want to do.”
At Nottingham, coach Lorenzo Jackson told me if I worked hard, I could go far. My sophomore year they threw me in on the varsity, and the rest is history.
My junior and senior year, letters started coming in from various colleges. University of Miami, West Virginia, Syracuse University. But all of those schools pretty much want to red shirt you your first year. I wanted to go in and contribute right away. University of Buffalo told me I could come in, play as a freshman. At the big time schools like Syracuse, I probably wouldn’t have seen the field until my second or third year.
The experience was incredible. They provide you with everything. You get your classes first, before the other students. They really treat you good when you’re on scholarship at a college. All the sneakers you could wear. Anything that you might need athletically, you had access to. And of course, the free education. I had a sense of the academics, but basically it was do your four years, because I was looking for a career in the National Football League.
Did you really keep the sense that you could play in the NFL?
As a youngster, you’re kind of na ve to the odds. The coach my first year in college said they were going to be sure to have everything set up for me to go to the next level. The second year they changed coaches. It was basically like starting all over again. I don’t think it affected my motivation, it’s just things weren’t as sure fire as they were before. I had a couple of pro tryouts. I don’t think I was really prepared to try out for NFL teams.
There was a play day at Syracuse University. I’m there with the likes of Terbucky Jones and Donovan Darius. Just to see those guys, they were prepared. They were first round drafts. Just to see the level they were at athletically, I knew I still had work to do. Semi-pro football was available to me. I started with the Storm, under Jerome Hall, then the Express and the Vipers. At one time there were two semi-pro teams in Syracuse.
Scott Irons (local semi-pro veteran, who had tryouts with NFL teams) is right. This is the NFL for us. We take it that seriously. We prepare the same way. We strap it on the same way. The difference is the money. But we definitely have issues with jobs this year more than ever, guys having to work during the evening hours, sometimes clashing with practice time. So a lot of times we’ve had to pick up things on the fly. Prepare very quickly for games. It hasn’t been easy.
But where we were apart before, I think losing to Rochester and Albany has galvanized us and brought us together. Now we’re playing really good football, and it’s the right time. Right now is the time to peak. Getting toward playoff time. Time for seeding. It’s like the NFL, as the season develops, you start to see where you are leaguewise, compared to the other teams. Hopefully, we can make the same kind of run we made in 2004, when we won the national title.
People unfamiliar with how seriously you take it, even some sportswriters, call your efforts “a beer league.” Where does that misconception come from?
I’m really not so sure. I know some leagues similar to ours have been like that, more a social activity. But this is something totally different. You can tell leaguewise, that it’s taken very seriously. The organizations are very well run. Moreso than they’ve ever been. Last year Scott Irons had a vision, to look the part, to have NFL-quality uniforms. We put our pennies together and came up with them.
Last winter, I watched the 40 and over (Baby Boomers Basketball League at Southwest Community Center). It was my first year, and I was amazed how, at that age, they could get up and down the court. They take their league very seriously. It’s like their NBA. I told them if they wanted to take it to the next level, get uniforms. The names on the back of our uniforms creates a more professional atmosphere.
Last winter the BBBL got good crowds. What has been the response to your games from the community?
Basically, when I look into the stands what I see is friends and family. Definitely, always at the games. They support us. But a game like Rochester, we’ll see bigger turnouts. That’s why I’m doing this interview. When Rochester comes to town, we need that support. We really need that support. We’ve really improved on merchandise and concessions, and we have a 50-50 raffle. This year we moved the games to Henninger, so it would be easier for the fans to see us play.