PSU's Morelli unloads on Penn Hills coach
UNIVERSITY PARK - Anthony Morelli chose the occasion of Penn State's Outback Bowl media day Thursday to lash out at his former Penn Hills High School football coach, Neil Gordon, for helping create his image as a dumb quarterback who struggles to read defenses.
"That's where it came from," Morelli said. "Him and Steve Russell, my quarterback coach there -- he played there years before me. That's where it all started."
The fuse to this explosion had been lighted weeks earlier, when Morelli was home on Thanksgiving break watching a telecast of the WPIAL Quad-A championship game between Upper St. Clair and Penn Hills.
"One of the reporters came on, Neil was talking about how much farther ahead this kid (Penn Hills quarterback Tom Fulton) is than Anthony Morelli and this and that," Morelli said. "I wish the kid all the luck in the world. I hope he does good. I hope he goes to a big-time school and what not. But why that• Why is it always constantly bashing me?"
Gordon last night called Morelli's charge "preposterous," before continuing, "My only comment is no comment."
But Gordon continued, "I never said that. Absolutely not."
Morelli's father, Greg Morelli, who watched that title game with his son, said last night, "No comment, other than I back my son 100 percent."
Morelli, a junior who became Penn State's starting quarterback this season, has been dogged by the label of a quarterback who, despite immense physical tools, struggles with the mental aspect of the position. He threw for 2,277 yards this season, in the process setting school records for completions (194) and attempts (361). He threw 10 touchdown passes, including on his first pass of the season, and eight interceptions, as Penn State went 8-4.
"I"m tired of everybody thinking I'm this idiot quarterback," Morelli said. "Are you serious• I wouldn't be here. Do you think Joe Paterno is not a good coach• He's been coaching forever.
"I'll sit down with anybody and read defenses. You know what I mean• It's easy. You learn that stuff in high school, in grade school. Cover three, cover two -- you know. It's just rumors that started. People get information and they just run with it. They're getting it from high school. Of course, I've got a lot to learn. Every quarterback does."
Morelli said problems with Gordon began before his junior year at Penn Hills, when he was getting serious college interest.
"Coaches would send letters and things, and he wouldn't give them to me," Morelli said, adding that it changed after his father talked with Gordon. "He said he would give me letters but he wouldn't send out tapes. He just wouldn't help me out ... like any other high school coach, they take their quarterbacks to camps, they go everywhere with them, they talk about them like they're the greatest thing in the world. I just had to go work on my own (with his dad)."
Morelli said he has not spoken with Gordon since his last game at Penn Hills, where he threw for 5,255 yards and 57 touchdowns in four seasons.
Asked what he would say to the coach if he ran into him on the street, the quarterback replied, "I'd just say thanks for everything you've done for me. Thanks for trying to bash me as much as you could. It didn't work."
Morelli claims to be motivated by those who doubt him.
"Every day when I walk in the weight room, or when I walk on the practice field, I just know that all that negative talk is going on, so I've just got to prove everyone wrong," he said.
Morelli said he was relieved to have gone public with his unhappiness.
"You've got to let it out. You've got to let people know where it's really coming from," he said. "I work my butt off, just like any other player here. I don't do anything different. I don't ever get in trouble. I do good in school, the whole nine yards. I'm just kind of fed up with the negative talk.
"Now you guys get the sense of where things are coming from. That's where it all started, back in high school, and now you guys know."