Gorman: Baldwin brothers bonded by football
Dorian Brown wasn't as depressed about wearing his purple-and-white uniform for the final time at Baldwin as he was that Jay Morrison wasn't wearing one.
Instead, Morrison wore street clothes Friday night, as well as a neck brace and a sling.
“It's kind of sad,” Morrison said. “I would have liked to play with Dorian for his last game of high school.”
Brown and Morrison are brothers — they have the same mother, Nikia Lewis, but different fathers — and share a strong bond after moving a dozen times before settling in with relatives Evelyn McMiller and Darryl Smith.
But it wasn't until last fall that they could call themselves teammates.
“I was always older than him, so I never got the chance to play football with him until high school,” Brown said. “I always wanted to play with my brother to see what it's like, but you take it for granted.”
Baldwin didn't qualify for the playoffs, but the brothers will cherish their game against Penn Hills in Week 3, which was televised on Root Sports. Brown, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior tailback who gave a verbal commitment to Ohio this week, rushed for 174 yards and a touchdown. Morrison, a 5-10, 170-pound junior safety, had 16 tackles and forced a fumble.
“I thought Brown was a tremendous running back — a real workhorse — but No. 2 may be one of the better safeties I've seen in the last 10 years,” Penn Hills coach John Peterman said of Morrison.
“He was all over the field. He made every tackle. When schools come in and say, ‘Did anybody pop out?' he'll be No. 1 on my list.”
Three weeks later, Morrison's season ended abruptly, just two series after Baldwin coach Jim Wehner's speech about playing every game like it's your last.
Morrison took those words to heart when he sprinted directly at 6-foot, 230-pound fullback Alex Beasley like it was a game of chicken. Neither one blinked.
“He's fearless,” Brown said of Morrison. “He'll tackle anyone.”
Despite giving up 60 pounds, Morrison was in position to make a textbook tackle, his facemask aimed at Beasley's No. 39.
“I wasn't trying to let him run me over,” Morrison said. “I know he's a big kid, but that didn't stop me.”
A slow-motion replay shows Beasley lower his helmet, which hit Morrison in the right side of the neck.
“You could tell his body is limp already,” Wehner said, pressing the pause button. “You can see his body flying. He's out already.”
Baldwin Stadium fell silent as Morrison lay motionless on his side for several moments. When he awoke, he wondered why coaches were on the field.
“I wasn't scared,” Morrison said. “I was just mad that No. 39 got the best of me.”
Then Morrison realized he couldn't feel his right arm. There was tingling in his right hand, which he could squeeze open and closed. But he couldn't move his arm.
Brown had to play through the pain of watching his brother suffer a serious injury, not knowing whether Morrison would play football again.
“It really is tough because I never knew it was coming,” said Brown, who watched as Morrison's facemask was cut off his helmet and he was immobilized on a stretcher. “Him getting hurt really hurt me. It cut me deep. It happened so fast, I was like, ‘Is he going to get up?'
“Then he couldn't get up, so I ran out there. I couldn't get close to him, so I said a few prayers. I was hoping that wasn't the last time he'd ever play football.”
Morrison has a hairline fracture in his neck causing limited movement in his arm, but he is undergoing therapy and expected to fully recover. He vows to build his body stronger so he can play college football.
Brown is using Morrison's absence as motivation, running for 137 yards and two touchdowns at Fox Chapel in Week 7.
“When I was running the ball, I kept reminding myself, ‘I'm doing it for Jay,' ” Brown said. “I was trying to run people over.”
Brown ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns, including a 64-yarder, in a 42-25 loss to Bethel Park on Friday to finish with 1,056 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. He finished his career with 3,079 yards and 33 touchdowns.
“We talk about Jay before every game,” Wehner said. “I tell him, ‘Keep it in your mind.' That's his brother.”
And, for one last time, a teammate like no other.
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7812.