Friday, December 8, 2017

Congratulations David Morrow

TigerBlog and David Morrow came to Princeton men's lacrosse at the exact same time.

It was in the spring of 1990. TigerBlog was a sportswriter, one who knew nothing about lacrosse. Nothing. Not even how many players were on the field at once.

TB isn't sure exactly how long it took for him to be hooked on the sport. He knows it wasn't very long.

Part of it was lacrosse itself. Much more than that, though, was Princeton men's lacrosse at the time, its players and coaches, and they remain to this day some of the very, very best people TigerBlog has ever met.

There were 44 players on the 1990 Princeton men's lacrosse team. Of that group, there were 21 from either New York or Maryland. If you add New Jersey and Pennsylvania, that number grows to 28 of 44. Throw in Massachusetts and Virginia and it's 32 of 44. Connecticut had another, so that's 34 of 44.

From seven states, all in the Northeast.

If you look at that 1990 roster, it leaps out at you that four consecutive players numerically came to Princeton from Manhasset, on Long Island. Four straight - No. 19 Lars Florio, No. 21 Justin Tortolani, No. 22 John Kenny and No. 23 Mal Meistrell.

Into this mix stepped David Morrow.

He came from Brother Rice High School - the Warriors - from outside of Detroit. He was a hockey player as much as a lacrosse player. He wasn't from a lacrosse area, and he knew it. He carried that around with him for four years. It was the chip on his shoulder.

TigerBlog wrote a story about Morrow - he wrote a lot of them, actually, but he's remembering one right now - about that chip. Morrow was a defenseman. Each week, he'd guard someone from Long Island, or Baltimore, or Syracuse. Each week, he said then, he had to prove he belonged.

No matter how many times he did it, he had to prove it again. And again. That's what he told TigerBlog.

And then he'd go out of prove it, once again.

The NCAA announced yesterday that David Morrow is one of six recipients of the 2018 Silver Anniversary Award. TigerBlog nominated him for the award a few months ago with the thought that if he didn't win, nobody TB nominated ever would.

The award recognizes athletic achievement as an undergraduate and then professional achievement after graduation. It's awarded each year to a handful of recipients on the 25th anniversary of when they graduated.

David Morrow is, by far, the most intense athlete TigerBlog has met at Princeton. And he's met a lot of intense athletes here.

Morrow was lightning fast and strong, with superior natural athletic ability. But more than anything else, he was an intense lacrosse player. 

Ed Calkins, a year ahead of Morrow on the men's lacrosse team and now the president of the Friends of Princeton Lacrosse, used the word "ferocious" to describe Morrow. That works. TigerBlog can't imagine what it must have been like to go against him in practice every day.

All these years later it's that intensity that TB remembers most about watching David Morrow play. Nobody has ever played harder. Nobody has ever wanted to win more. Nobody has ever scared the you-know-what out of the other team the way he did.

Even now, even his email is intense, with a signature that says "dominate," with a fist.

David Morrow turned that on-field intensity into one of the most storied careers any lacrosse defenseman has ever had. His resume includes all of the following:

* 1993 Division I Player of the Year (one of two defensemen to win the award, and the most recent)
* 1992, 1993 first-team All-America
* 1992, 1993 National Defenseman of the Year
* 1991, 1992, 1993 first-team All-Ivy League
* 1992 NCAA champion
* 1992, 1993 NCAA Final Four
* 1994, 1998 World Champion

Then there's the other side of Morrow's story. 

Back when Morrow was a Princeton student, his father was attempting to invent a new kind of snowshoe when he had the idea of replacing existing lacrosse shafts made of aluminum with titanium, which was much more durable and lightweight.

The result was that instead of lugging around heavier sticks that broke at a rate of two or three dozen per year, now there was a stick that could last all season.

It was with titanium that Morrow scored two goals in the 1992 NCAA semifinal win over North Carolina. Here they are, by the way:

By the following year, pretty much all of college lacrosse wanted to use titanium.

Morrow started a company to market his product, and he named it after his high school - Warrior. Maybe it was his way of saying that no matter how much of a lacrosse insider he'd become, he would never lose that chip on his shoulder.

Pretty soon Warrior expanded to do more than build sticks. In fact, Warrior began to be the go-to brand for anything and everything in lacrosse, and kids way beyond the Northeast wanted in.

More than the fancy marketing around the top stars in the sport, Warrior also made it more cost effective to play lacrosse, since one stick could last a long time.

Morrow also was one of the co-founders of Major League Lacrosse, whose first season was in 2001. Today the league is by far the best lacrosse played anywhere in the world, and the players who play in it were among the generation who first came to the sport around the time that Warrior was having its impact.

Beyond his business successes, Morrow has also been committed to bringing lacrosse - and hockey - to organizations helping economically challenged and disabled children to play both. In the past 25 years, he and Warrior Sports have supported more than 70 different charitable organizations with financial and equipment donations.

How much of this is due to Warrior Lacrosse and David Morrow?

A lot. He has done as much, as any single person anywhere, to grow the sport of lacrosse.

The 2018 Princeton men's lacrosse roster has 47 players on it. Of that group, 11 are from New York and Maryland. There are as many players from California as from Pennsylvania or New Jersey, more if you include Aran Roberts, who grew up in Ireland but moved to California and played high school lacrosse there.

Lacrosse has skyrocketed in the last 25 years. David Morrow's fingerprints are all over that growth.

Very few people come along who overwhelm a sport, leaving those who saw them play to marvel at their abilities, and then turn around and change the very fabric of the way the sport is played - and who gets to play it.

David Morrow is one of those.

Bill Tierney, who coached Morrow at Princeton, calls him "an innovator, an innovator in everything he does."

He also said this about him:

"David is driven," said Tierney. "He's opinionated. He's talented. He's super intelligent. He thinks of the future. He's never taken no for an answer. He was the same as a kid, the same as a player. Now he's the same as a business executive. He's edgy. He won't stop working. He won't stop looking to make something better, including himself. He's not afraid of anything or anybody. That's the magic of him."

That's the David Morrow TigerBlog met all those years ago.

That's the David Morrow he'll see in Indianapolis next month.

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