January 17, 2013 at 4:58 PM
We had the chance to catch up with cornerback Stephon Morris to talk about new Penn State defensive coordinator John Butler, as well as Morris' preparations to play at the next level. As a senior in the 2012 season, Morris led Butler's secondary with 60 tackles. The Greenbelt, Md. native also said he is currently training at Penn State and chasing his dream of playing in the NFL.
Here are his answers to some of our questions:
Q: John Butler was recently named Penn State's defensive coordinator. You worked with him closely last season when he was the defensive backs coach, what was that like?
A: "It was a great experience, it was a great honor, especially with this being my senior year. Being around [Butler], he's a smart guy, he's a funny guy, he knows his football. I kind of look at him as one of us, like he's one of the guys. He's always joking around, but he's very passionate. It's easy to relate to him. There were times in the season or in the offseason, if I had a problem, or any person in the secondary had a problem, we would just text him at any time of night or call him. And he might not get back to us right then, but he always gave us advice on life. I definitely wish I had more time to play for him."
Q: On Twitter, you said Butler was one of your favorite coaches that you've ever played for. Could you elaborate on why you said that?
A: "Yeah, I said he's like my favorite coach of all time. Like I said, he's young, it's easy to relate to him. He did a great job with myself, just to see me relaxing, not stressing too much over senior year or having a big game, just letting everything just come to you. He even checked up on my family when he didn't even have to. It was just a really good experience to play for him. He made the game fun. My sophomore, junior seasons, my love for the game kind of diminished a little bit. It wasn't just a game anymore. And the game should always be fun, but it took too much out of me that I wasn't able to focus. But the minute coach Butler got on campus, I thought he was crazy. He was yelling and I thought 'Man, who is this guy? I don't want to play for him.' But that's the kind of person he is. He's very passionate and he means a lot to myself and if you ask any guy in the secondary, he means a lot to them, too.
I told coach O'Brien this in front of the whole team the day before the game against Wisconsin, at the beginning, when he first brought coach Butler here, I thought it was the worst hire that he had. Just the fact that he was always intense and yelling and things like that. But at the end of the season, I told the guys I thought coach Butler was the best hire. I told coach O'Brien I appreciate him being here, but I also thanked him for bringing coach Butler to the staff and redirecting my career."
Q: We see it sometimes during games that coach Butler has no problem with getting in someone's face on the field, what's his intensity like away from the field?
A: "He's the same person. …What you see on TV is the type of person he is at practice and the type of person he is even in the meeting room, just always intense, fiery. He's always critiquing. He points out the good plays, but he always found something that I could improve on. This year, I felt like I got better every game, because I was working on the smallest things."
Q: What do you think of Butler's promotion to defensive coordinator, and how do you think he'll handle the task of leading the whole defense?
A: "I think he'll do really well. If I had anything to say to him, it'd just be to be himself, and be that fun-loving coach, that friend, that father figure that he was to me. I think as the defensive coordinator he'll do really well, just the fact that he has coach [Larry Johnson], who is proven, and coach [Ron Vanderlinden], who is proven. I'm sure too, that the secondary coach, whoever it is, will be very highly qualified. At the start of last season, I didn't want the secondary to be unknown anymore. Coach Johnson always made his defensive linemen known, and everyone knows "Linebacker U." So coach Butler and myself started saying after every practice "Defensive Back U or DBU," just so we get known."
Q: What's coach Butler's relationship like with coach O'Brien?
A: "They're definitely close, they're both pretty passionate guys. One memory I have with both them, was one time during spring practice, I don't know what happened, but something happened in the secondary and coach O'Brien were just going at it. We all looked at each other and we thought it was great. I never saw that out of coaches. But the next play, the offense ran a play and coach Butler was over there talking to [O'Brien] like nothing happened. I think they're very close… they have good camaraderie."
Q: That's all about coach Butler, but how's your training for the draft going?
A: "It's going well. In December, I signed with Perennial Sports Agency, one of the top guys they had was Cam Newton. I signed with that company and everything else has been going smoothly. I've been working out with [Penn State strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald], and I also have a DB trainer come out here every Tuesday and Thursday, so I can work out as well. Everything else is going well, I'm still taking classes so I can graduate in May. I'm not looking back. I've been dreaming the dream of playing in the NFL since I was six years old, and every day I feel like I am getting closer and closer. I have no doubt in my mind I can play at the next level."