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Gorches: ‘Big Daddy’ strong through adversity

Tyler Morrow Rensselaer Football  | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media

Tyler Morrow, Rensselaer Football | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 11, 2012 6:18AM



Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, an unexpected blow that results in pain and suffering, and tests your strength and intestinal fortitude.

You can let it beat you down or you can stand tall and fight back.

That blow in Tyler Morrow’s life came almost five years ago, in December of 2007, when his older brother, Travis, died of a rare form of cancer at the way-too-young age of 19.

Travis played football for coach Chris Meeks, and his death was a big loss for the football program and the close-knit Rensselaer community.

There were three brothers in the Morrow family — Tyler, who is a senior defensive tackle for the Bombers, is the youngest while Travis was the middle brother, and they were brought up by a single mother.

Tyler was close to Travis, so it’s obvious that his death hit the future football player hard back then.

But did he let it beat him down? Hardly. It’s tough to beat down a 6-foot-3, 380-pound lineman who’s teammates respectfully call “Big Daddy.”

That’s related to his physical toughness, though. This kind of adversity tests your mental toughness and in that capacity, Morrow’s also large and strong.

“I think he found football as a release,” Meeks said. “He lives in the weight room. Tremendous work ethic. Everything we want in a young man — excellent student, talks about being a chef one day.”

You can let life beat you down or you can take life by the throat and say, “I’m going to live on and rise above the strife.”

Meet Tyler Morrow, likely the biggest young man on the football field during any of Rensselaer’s games this season. He also could be the nicest young man of any of the football players in those games, too.

And very motivated. How else can you explain a work ethic that has the big guy squatting around 500 pounds in the weight room and performing “the most perfect push-ups” of anyone on the team, in the words of Meeks.

Yes, Morrow did demonstrate a handful of those push-ups during a break in the middle of a five-hour practice on a very hot day.

“The motivation doesn’t come from us (as coaches) at all,” Meeks said. “This kid has internal motivation like I’ve never seen. A lot of times I wonder what’s ticking inside his head. I’ve never lost a brother.”

Neither have I, as an only child. I haven’t lost any close family members, outside of my grandparents. So, like Meeks, I can’t relate to the pain Morrow has gone through and the strength he displays every day.

“It always reminds me that life is short,” Morrow said about his brother’s death. “He always told me that you can’t live scared.”

One look at Morrow’s imposing frame, and the average person might be scared of him. Meeks says it’s quite the opposite.

“He’s got a great positive attitude on life,” Meeks said. “He could bully kids around, but he’s respectful and kids love him. At lunchtime when other kids are screwing around, he’s sitting there reading a book.”

For the record, Morrow said his favorite writer for the moment is Henry David Thoreau.

Like everyone else, Morrow has goals. But his football goals are mostly related to team first without much outward leadership.

“He’s not a vocal leader, but he leads by what he does,” Meeks said. “Carrying that much weight, everything these other kids do, he does it, too. Don’t get me wrong. He takes breathers — he’s 380 pounds. But when it’s time to go, he goes.”

That refers mostly to sprints, which aren’t easy for Big Daddy. But if he can do them, it shows the rest of the players they better do them just as hard.

“I like to push myself as hard as I can go,” Morrow said. “That makes you better and that helps the team get better as well. They can build off my motivation. I like being a leader.”

That’s the key word with Morrow: motivation. It’s what drives him since losing his brother, and it’s what he hopes drives the Bombers.

As for his future motivation after high school, that chef thing Meeks mentioned isn’t a joke.

Hey, I’ve watched those cooking shows on Food Network. The best cooks in restaurants always seems to be the big guys.

“I like to eat, but I also like the creativity of being a chef,” Morrow said. “I haven’t thought too much about college or the future.”

That probably stems from his brother’s death and realizing you should take life one day at a time.

Morrow has taken a tough punch in the gut from life, and he’s using it as motivation for himself and inspiration for his teammates.



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