Once considered a long shot to make the Redskins’ 53-man roster, sixth-round pick Alfred Morris made himself one of the stories of the preseason and now has a chance to start at running back when Washington opens the season Sept. 9 at New Orleans.


The fourth of seven boys, running back Alfred Morris is in contention for Washington’s starting job. (Washington Post/Jonathan Newton)

Despite playing for a small school – Florida Atlantic University – Morris excelled thanks to a strong work ethic and hard running style. His study habits also have helped him quickly adjust to the mental aspects of the NFL game.

 The 5-foot-10, 218-pound Morris was Washington’s most productive back during the preseason, averaging five yards a carry as he gained 195 yards and a touchdown on 39 rushes.

 When asked on Monday about the key to his success so far, Morris credited his parents, Ronald and Yvonne Morris, who raised him and his six brothers in Pensacola, Fla.

 “I look at my mom with seven boys, raising us,” said Morris, the fourth boy in a family with no girls. “She went back and got her AA and her Bachelors, and it took about seven years to do that, and she took another couple years to get her Masters in special education. So, it just let me know that, all the things she had on top of the school work, it’s nothing too hard. If you really want it, just go out there and reach it.

 “And just watching my dad,” he continued. “He was his siblings’ parents for various reasons. He was working construction and going to school, doing stuff like this, buying his brothers and sisters school supplies and school clothes. Just that hard work was instilled in us when we were growing up. I’m just trying to go out there and make them proud no matter what I do. I’m just thankful for them. They’re the fuel for my fire.”

Morris said that it’s still hard for his parents to believe that they have a son playing professional football.

 The reality has set in for Morris, but he hasn’t felt overwhelmed as prepares for Sunday’s season opener.

“It’s like any other game, college, high school. It’s more in-depth, but football is football,” Morris said. “I’m just trying to soak up as much as I can. My coaches have been feeding us different schemes, different fronts and trying to give us a knowledge. I’ve been trying to take notes, study and just be prepared for things before they come: defensive linemen, blocking keys, safety rotations.”

 Morris is competing with Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr. for the starting running back duties, but hasn’t yet learned who will get the nod. The uncertainty will have little impact on his preparation, however.

 “I’m just going to keep working hard in these practices and be ready regardless of what happens,” Morris said. “Whether it’s me, or Royster, or Helu or [fullback Darrel Young], because he can play I-back, too. I’m going to do whatever I can and be ready when they do call me.”