OU football: Lee Morris' walk-on-to-scholarship journey at Oklahoma is still going as chemistry with Jalen Hurts builds

Oklahoma redshirt senior Lee Morris runs with a pass during the game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas, on Oct. 26. (Caitlyn Epes / For The Transcript)

Lee Morris catches passes, he doesn’t throw them. But he adores former NFL quarterback Tony Romo.

“One of my favorite Dallas Cowboys of all time,” the Oklahoma redshirt senior receiver said.

That’s because before Romo signed with the Cowboys — who play football 43 miles from Morris’ hometown — his dreams were seemingly dried up. He went undrafted before catching on with Dallas as a free agent.

Morris understands that route, and that he might be on it again a few months from now when he leaves OU. He isn’t on mock draft boards. This is lot like his experience coming out of Allen High School, when his top scholarship offers were from mid-majors.

Now, since going from walk-on to scholarship player, to becoming part of Lincoln Riley’s offense and a strong fiber within OU’s locker room, Morris will play his final game at Owen Field on Saturday when the Sooners host TCU (7 p.m., FOX).

It’s been a journey.

“I never saw myself anywhere besides here,” said Morris, whose path is just like his dad’s; Lee Jr. walked-on at OU in the 1980s before earning a scholarship. “I was going to come here regardless of whether I had a scholarship or not and just work my way up to the position where I am right now.

“I had to work my way through it. I had to pay my dues. I had to play scout team. I had to work my way up. Earn time on special teams. Sure enough, as soon as I got my opportunities on offense, I made the most of them. Sure enough, I’m getting more and more and more and more. Here I am.”

Morris first made a splash in 2018, earning a scholarship after the season opener then getting the nickname “TD Lee” when he caught eight touchdowns in his first 16 passes. Those were thrown by Kyler Murray, his former high school teammate.

Morris has been less involved in the offense this year, but he and Jalen Hurts finally clicked in a game when Morris caught a career-high seven passes in OU’s comeback win over Baylor. Each one went for a first down.

OU’s passing offense could enjoy a new dimension if Morris and Hurts connect more frequently moving forward. By this time last year, Morris and fellow tight end Grant Calcaterra had caught 35 passes. That number is 20 going into this weekend.

Calcaterra will miss his sixth consecutive game this week, raising questions about whether he’ll return. That makes Morris’ involvement even more important.

"Lee was a huge part of the [Baylor] game. He played excellent,” Riley said. “Jalen did a good job finding him on a number of occasions. Our guys outside have gotten some attention, so even with CeeDee [Lamb] not there, it was important to be able to attack some people over the middle. And then Lee just made some clutch, big time catches. I mean, several of the catches he got hit a little bit and able to hang on. I mean, it's what he's done his entire career here.”

That effort’s replicated not just on offense, but also special teams. Morris has been crucial to OU’s success there too. In fact, until last week, he hadn’t caught more than two passes in a game this season. Four games he went without a catch.

Riley never heard him complain.

“He’s been one of our most unselfish players for the entire time he’s been here. He came here as a walk-on. Probably shouldn’t have been,” Riley said. “Then he’s played on darn near every special teams, every one of them that we’ve had. Been kind of a jack of all trades offensively. He never says a word. He just works. Shows up. He’s there every single day. He’s really tough. He’s really made himself into a really, really good football player.”

“TD Lee” has stuck. But Hurts recently used an even better descriptor for Morris.

“Poised as can be. Kinda like a silent assassin at times,” Hurts said.

Like his dad, Morris wouldn’t mind sneaking into the NFL after college is over and maybe sticking around a little longer. Lee Jr. played five games for the Green Bay Packers in 1987.

First, he must come to grips that his time at OU is closing.

“I’ve been dreading this upcoming Saturday,” Morris said.

TCU at OU

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Place: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium

Records: CFP No. 10/AP No. 8/Coaches No. 7 OU (9-1, 6-1 Big 12); TCU (5-5, 3-4)

Line: OU (-18.5)

TV: FOX

Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7

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