This past weekend, four-star quarterback Chandler Morris committed to play for his father at the University of Arkansas as part of the class of 2020. But before Chad Morris had ever recruited his son to Arkansas, Chandler Morris recruited his dad to the Razorbacks.
In December 2017, Chad Morris was SMU’s head football coach and high on the list for the same job at Arkansas. Chandler Morris was a junior quarterback at Highland Park High School in Dallas, playing behind future Razorback John Stephen Jones.
“When this [Arkansas] job came open, he looks at me and he goes, ‘Dad. Man, let’s do this,'” Chad Morris recalled his only son saying during a Buzz 103.7 interview. “He was all in on it and just excited.”
Morris, of course, did win the UA job and Chandler’s passion didn’t wane in the least. “I remember him walking in the door after school one day and Paul was in there trying to call the Hogs, and I mean, Chandler, he’s fist pumping in the air. He’s fired up.”
A few months later, the tables would turn.
In June 2018, it was now Chad Morris trying to convince his emerging star of a son to come to Arkansas. At that point, his main competition was his former boss, Dabo Swinney, at Clemson.
Dad vs. Dabo
In the four years Chad Morris spent as Clemson’s offensive coordinator, his family and head coach Dabo Swinney’s family were very close. For one, they were neighbors. Swinney drove Chandler Morris to middle school in the mornings, and the coaches took turns taking each other’s kids tubing during the summers near their lake houses.
Last June, Swinney saw Chandler Morris during a camp at Clemson and was shocked by how good Chandler had become. He called Chad Morris soon afterward.
Imitating Swinney’s Alabaman drawl, Morris recounted how the conversation went in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated:
“Chaaaaad! What?! This boy is going to look goooood wearing orange. These Tigers are about to make them Hogs have to work for Chandler,” a laughing Chad says retelling the story. “I said, ‘Dabo, don’t do that. He hasn’t even started a high school game yet.’ He said, ‘Nope. I’ve watched this kid grow up since he was in the third grade. I took him to school. I know what this kid’s got. We’re offering him. Them Hogs better go to work!’”-Ross Dellenger, Sports Illustrated
Right after that camp, Chandler Morris’ first offer came from Clemson on June 7, 2018. He then attended a camp in Fayetteville, and the Razorbacks offered him on June 14.
It’s no secret Chad Morris thinks highly of Swinney and the Clemson program. He played a part in creating the winning culture there, after all, and has made no bones about using Clemson as a blueprint for the Arkansas program.
But Morris didn’t want to play a heavy hand in his own son’s direct recruitment. He knew his primary role is and always should be as father, looking out first for what’s in Chandler’s best interests. Arkansas offensive coordinator Joe Craddock took the lead on Chandler’s recruitment.
Craddock, too, thinks highly of Clemson. So much so that during Chandler’s recruitment he brought up committing “on the spot” to the program if he were in Chandler’s shoes — something perhaps no opposing recruiter has ever before uttered publicly.
“They’ve got great people, great facilities. They’re great coaches and great people, so I know they would take care of him. That’s something that, as a dad, Coach Morris would have to talk with him about. If it was me, with a team that just played for the national championship and won it, it would be hard not to commit on the spot. But Chandler’s done it the right way. He’s handled it the right way, taken his trips and enjoyed the process.”Joe Craddock, ESPN.com
Morris accompanied his son on recruiting trips to other programs. He told ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich that he let Chandler do most of the talking to the opposing coaches. Chad Morris would chime with direct questions.
“A lot of it is roster talk more than anything,” he said. “You talk about injuries and how they handle kids that get hurt, and how does that work. You deal with their trainers. It’s more, from my standpoint, how they go about the strength and conditioning, how they specialize in their quarterbacks and looking at the overall development of the coach. Is he an offensive-minded coach? Is he a defensive-minded coach? You talk strategy, you talk scheme, you talk offense with him.”
Though Chad Morris doesn’t discuss it, he likely gleaned good ideas from such talks that he will pass on to his Arkansas staff. Sometimes, when it came to Chandler, he spoke up for something he felt was important.
For instance, as a father, he didn’t allow Chandler to consider committing to certain football programs that he felt didn’t align with the culture and values of a Chad Morris-led Arkansas or Dabo Swinney-led Clemson. Talking with Dellenger, Chad Morris did not get into the specifics of what schools were taken off the list, or why.
Besides Arkansas and Clemson, Oklahoma, Auburn and Texas A&M made Chandler’s final cut for consideration.
At least once, too, Chad Morris allowed himself to throw a recruiting pitch Chandler’s way. It happened right after Chandler led Highland Park to a state championship, capping an undefeated season in which the junior flashed 4.6 speed and elite passing accuracy and won the title game MVP. You can see all of that, and more, in the video below.
In the postgame celebration, Chad Morris whispered to Chandler: “Only thing that would make this an even better moment is if I was able to coach you and win a championship at another level.”
Chandler Morris as “anti-Razorback”
Chandler Morris came around to the idea of playing for his dad as the year went on. It took till January, though.
Early in his junior season, after the Clemson and Arkansas offers, Chandler Morris got a scholarship offer from Oklahoma (his eventual No. 2 choice). Such offers from elite programs likely boosted his confidence. But after his father became the Hogs’ coach, other schools’ interest waned. It was as if opposing coaches gave up on the possibility of recruiting him away from his father.
It got to the point that Chandler Morris considered publicly declaring he wouldn’t commit to Arkansas. “I really think Chandler was anti-Arkansas, because he was like ‘That’s what everybody thinks I’m going to do!’” recalled Paula Morris, Chandler’s mother.
Paula, for her part, also came to think it wouldn’t be a good idea for Chandler to play for his own father, according to Sports Illustrated.
Needing to gain some clarity, Chandler visited with one of his high school coaches, Tristan Weber. “Having his dad in the mix has been hard on him, but a blessing as well,” Weber told Sports Illustrated. ” I told him, ‘If you want to play for a coach who’s going to develop you… I’d put your dad top three in the nation of guys I’ve seen at any level of coaching the quarterback. It’s not like going to play for your dad is out of obligation. Going to play for your dad is because you want to be an elite player.’”
They made a list of pros and cons. That night, Chandler Morris prayed about it, and the next morning he told his mom — to her surprise — he wanted to commit to Arkansas. “It brought a lot of relief,” Chandler Morris later said.
In the following months, Morris visited more schools and got more offers.
He Tweeted out thanks, and said all the appropriate things, but deep inside he knew where he was headed. It was just a matter of when to announce it.
He reportedly made his commitment official to his father a couple of weeks ago, according to 247Sports.com. “I told him a couple of weeks ago that I am ready to release it on this day [June 14] and everything like that so that was kind of when he knew that it was official. I didn’t know the next time I would be in Fayetteville, but I knew that I would be up here for this camp tonight,” Morris said. “I just felt like I wanted to be around the whole Arkansas family and share this special day with them.”
Certainly, this was a Father’s Day weekend the Morris family will never forget.
To which Dad Tweeted: “Been workin’ on this recruit’s momma for a long time! [Paula Morris] and I are very proud of not just the football player, but the person you are becoming!”
Chandler Morris’ High School Career
- Completed 63.9% of his passes, threw for 4,010 yards, 46 touchdowns and six interceptions
- Rushed for 647 more yards and 20 more touchdowns
- First quarterback in Highland Park’s 90-year history to lead the Scots to a 16-0 record
- “The ball comes out of his hand with the zip of nobody I’ve ever seen. That’s a long list of guys,” says Tristan Weber, a longtime assistant at Highland Park who coaches quarterbacks. The list includes former NFL No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford.