Nashua’s Morrissey back in coaching game

Eddy Morrissey was out of college football for a season this past year, and the former Nashua High School quarterback learned one basic thing.

“I learned coaching is coaching,” he said of his time at a Catholic school in Eugene, Oregon. “It doesn’t matter what level you’re at.

“It was awesome to take a ninth grader, you’re working with that kid, coaching the offensive line, and he doesn’t even know what the offensive line is. But you’re watching the kid get better, and you’re making a difference with that kid.”

The well-traveled Morrissey is now back in the college game after nearly a year in Eugene, as he’s now the offensive line coach at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

It’s his latest stop in a career of several stops, but Morrissey has valued each one and learned from them all. He came back east at Bryant University in 2017 as an offensive line coach, then went to Mississippi State as a quality control/assistant offensive line coach, knowing the head coach there, Joe Moorehead. That’s where he met current fellow MSU assistant Charles Huff, who was the running backs coach, and they stayed in touch. And Huff is now the head coach at – you guessed it – Marshall.

“I just thought he was unbelievable as a coach and human being,” Morrissey said. “I said, ‘Hey if you ever have a chance to get a head coaching job, I’d walk there to work with you.'”

Instead, he took a flight.

But in the years leading up to this one, Huff went to Alabama the next year, and Morrissey coached the offensive line and the running game at Austin Peay in 2019.

“It was a chance to stay in the south, recruit the south,” Morrissey said.

Austin Peay won 11 games, went to the national FCS quarterfinals, the best season in school history.

“I had a great group, kids that worked hard,” he said.”

But then COVID came, his wife got furloughed, so the couple moved back to Oregon. Morrissey took a job at Marist Catholic High School in Eugene, Ore., as head of campus security/safety monitor.

“But there’s no kids,” he said with a chuckle. “I basically was campus security with no kids on campus except a couple of athletes in the afternoon.”

He also took a contracting job, but also coached football as an assistant, except the season got pushed to the spring so there were only a couple of practices a week in the fall.

Morrissey was hoping to be the athletic director at Marist Catholic as there was an opening, but they pushed the job to next year. So he did what he could, keeping people out of the building, letting in only authorized personnel. And getting to know the kids at practices.

“It was humbling but at the same time rewarding because I was around the kids at practice in the afternoon,” he said. “But I always felt I was going to be a high school coach anyway coming out of Plymouth State. I thought I’d coach in Nashua, coach a couple of sports and run the weight room and all that,but things happen in life and you don’t do that.”

But, he said, he got his high school fix at Marist, but was curious about returning to the college ranks. The University of New Hampshire had an opening, and Morrissey talked with Wildcats head coach Sean McDonnell, but it didn’t go much further. Morrissey had gotten his teaching certification back, and was set to get into high school teaching, coaching, and perhaps an administration role.

Then Huff called. On Feb. 1, he was off to Marshall, a school with lots of tradition in the “We Are Marshall” mode.

“I’m just learning it,” Morrissey said. “When I say the community rallies around football and athletics, it’s not a joke. The people will give you the shirt off their back. There’s so much tradition, and they care about football and athletics.”

And he watched the acclaimed movie that depicted the aftermath of the tragic 1970 plane crash that killed 37 players plus coaches and support staff.

“It’s beyond moving,” he said. “It’s based off a true story. When you meet people here, and it ties them to Marshall, ties them to the plane crash, it’s huge. …I love it, it’s been so awesome.”

Morrissey learned one rule of thumb over the years.

“You’ve got to work for good people,” Morrissey said. “I figured it out. I’m only 49, and spent a long time coaching, but I’d never work for a bad person. You have to work for a good person … Charles Huff is an amazing person.”

He was attracted by Huff’s attention to detail and positive nature. And Morrissey said he wasn’t always like that.

“There were times when I’d be stand off-ish, not trying to be right, but just standing for what you believe in, almost to a fault,” he said. “You find that at times you come off negative. I’ve done a 180, I’m over the top positive.”

In more ways than just coaching. Morrissey saw himself getting very heavy, and while at Mississippi State he was at 285 pounds. So he said enough was enough and he changed his diet and changed everthing, and now he’s down to 195.

“Life changing,” Morrissey said. “And that gives me energy for the job, for life, everything.”

And he’s up nearly seven days a week before 5 a.m. working out. He’s seen the difference in his coaching.

“Just like negative is contagious, positive is contagious,” he said, noting that he’s followed people he’d like to work for all over the country, as shown by his various stops. “Sure, there’s time you go to practice, you’re ripping the kid and he’s had a bad day. But you can never leave the field letting the kid feel that way. There has to be positive energy coming from you to your group.”

And that starts at the top, he says.

Where does it all end up for Eddie Morrissey? Is there a spot he’d like to end up at and stay for several years, or will the lure of the next job always be there?

“I don’t know,” he said. “Every place I go, I’m like, I love it. I find the good in it. And I say that I want to stay. I love Marshall, and I say I’d like to stay.”

However, there is always a “but”.

“The world you live in, college football, you’ve got to win and there’s not a ton of job security. For me, I’m in a place in my life where I want to be around good people, I want to work for good people, and I want an opportunity to win. I can do that here.”

Morrissey says he’s experienced that elsewhere. He began at Plymouth under then head coach and nationally acclaimed defensive guru Don Brown, who turned Plymouth and UMass around. Then Northeastern (before they eliminated football). Morrissey was part of winning at Mississippi State.

“Being around people who know how to win and motivate,” he said. “And being around those kids. They’re all my kids. The offensive line we go by ‘Five strong.’ It’s not lip service.”

Morrissey messages his players at Marshall every single morning, and does group chats.

“Let’s go, how do you live your life,” he said. “It’s getting closer to game day. Get up, make your bed, hydrate, let’s go to work, have a great day, dominate your class, sit in the first two rows, give it your best. It’s all of that stuff, but it’s every single day, over and over and over again.

“It’s what I’ve learned, and it’s what I’ve stuck to. Just every day trying to be the same person, just get a little bit better every day.”

Morrissey was a grad assistant coach at Oregon for three years, two of them under current UCLA and former NFL head coach Chip Kelly, of Manchester and UNH fame.

Then Fordham for a year, then six years at Princeton, the longest stint in his coaching career. “I would have stayed, I probably would have been a lifer there,” he said. However, his father-in-law in Oregon was ill and Morrissey and his wife went back to be with him. That was his only year out of football.

Coaching in the Ivy League was a special experience. Before Princeton, he also had done a stint at Brown University.

“I love the Ivy League,” he said. “Those kids are genuine. They work really hard, and they’re dedicated in the classroom and dedicated on the field.”

But he hated the fact the Ivy League has no playoff or that teams don’t compete in the FCS playoffs. “That’s the only negative,” he said.

Does Morrissey see the difference in the levels?

“From a structure standpoint there’s a lot of carryover,” he said. “You’re still working hard. Some of your best coaches come from high school because they have to do everything. It’s not just football. They have to teach, line the field, all the laundry, so many hats they have to wear. While I was watching the high school coaches at Marist, I was in awe.”

But at college, it’s a six day a week job in the winter, then seven in the spring and fall.

“What I see different are the resources,” he said. “The higher the level, the better the resources. But the pressure to win is more.”

And Morrissey says once coaches move up the ladder, he sees them change.

“It’s hard,” he said. “You’re paying them so much money now, and money changes people. But I’ve been so fortunate, the people I’ve been around are great human beings, great people. So I’ve just seen that from the outside.

“But I love it. I’d love to play for a national championship at the highest level, and that would be FBS. The athletes are some of the best in the country.”

And he’s at an FBS school in Marshall, but not in a so-called Power 5 conference, but rather “Group of 5”.

Of all his numerous stops, what was Morrissey’s favorite spot?

“That’s a tough one,” he said. “Plymouth is special because that’s where I got my start. Oregon was so much fun because of the fan base. Oregon is probably my favorite spot. And it’s where I met my wife Sharilyn. So I need to give Oregon a special shout out for sure.”

While at Oregon he had the opportunity to coach in three bowl games: the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl, the 2007 Sun Bowl and 2008 Holiday Bowl.

Morrissey was a quarterback at Nashua in the late 1980s, and at Plymouth State. He’s been a running backs coach. But he always had the desire to coach an offensive line, but liked the fact that “it’s five guys, they have to be on the same page, and the chemistry that those guys have to have together. And the room, it’s a special bond with the O-Line.

“You get exposed. If something’s wrong, it’s the O-line. If you can’t run the ball, it’s the O-line. There’s so much that goes into it. But mostly it’s motivating those guys, and being in the room with those guys.”

His first full time job coaching the offensive line was at Fordham in 2009, and he began the theme “Five Strong” and stayed with it ever since.

Why? Morrissey breaks down football in its simplest form. “You can come up with all these different formations,” he said. “But you’ve got to be physical up front. You’ve to be able to run, be able to block, be able to tackle, do all those things. You do those things better than your opponent, you’re going to win more than you lose.”

And there’s a constant learning experience with the offensive line, blocking different things that defenses throw at you and for the different formations your offense runs. The individual matchups, and replacing players hurt or graduated.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “I have 20 guys in my room in a given year. OK, I’ve got to motivate these guys, keep an eyes on these guys academically,what they do outside when they leave. … There’s always an opportunity to mentor. They don’t get a lot of credit, but they deserve a lot of credit. Let’s line up and play and be the best group on the field – and the best O-Line in the country.”

What goes through Morrissey’s mind when he sees former New Hampshire high school players Dan Mullen (Florida) and Ryan Day (Ohio State) thrive at the national level as head coaches?

“It’s awesome,” he said. “You’re proud, because you’re from the Granite State. Live Free or Die. It’s a sense of pride, and it’s all about opportunities. Connections, it’s who you know, the opportunities, and making the most of them when you get them. And I think those guys, and along with Chip being where he’s at, they get those opportunities and make the most of them. The New Hampshire tree is impressive when you take a look at it.”

And it’s a tree Morrissey is part of. Morrissey has had a few players who have been in NFL camps, but no one that has stuck. Would he ever consider coaching in the NFL?

“It would all depend,” he said. “I’m older, and they want everybody to be younger. But it would all depend. It’s a different bond. The financial part of it, yeah that sounds awesome.”

But Morrissey may some day choose the high school path that he had a taste of last year, but also loves the college aspect of seeing the high school world in recruiting.

“I liked getting into the high school, seeing the high school coach,” he said. “I liked seeing the player, getting into the relationship, getting the kid and developing him. I like developing kids.”

But coaching is coaching, “and you stay in touch with those kids, I like the bond. But (in college) I like the recruiting aspect.”

He wanted to make sure in his bio at Marshall that Marist Catholic High School was included. He’d definitely take a high school coaching/AD job down the road.

“One hundred percent,” he said. “I’d love it. The bond you get with the kids. Not just with football. I was in the building, and being around all those different athletes. You can mentor those young kids.

“There are so many ADs that are negative.They just punch the clock. Well, don’t be an AD. In my opinion, you’ve got to love sports to be an AD.”

And love football to coach the offensive line. He is where ‘We are Marshall’ is the slogan, but for Eddy Morrissey, “He is Coach’ fits like a glove.

Just like Five Strong.