Eugene Edward "Mercury" Morris (born January 5, 1947) is a former American football running back and kick returner. He played for seven years, primarily for the Miami Dolphins in the American Football League (AFL), then in the American Football Conference following the 1969 merger with the National Football League (NFL).
In 1982, Morris was convicted of felony drug trafficking charges. After three and a half years in prison, he was released after a plea agreement in which he pleaded no contest to cocaine conspiracy charges.
|Born:||January 5, 1947|
|Height:||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Weight:||190 lb (86 kg)|
|High school:||Pittsburgh (PA) Avonworth|
|College:||West Texas State|
|NFL Draft:||1969 / Round: 3 / Pick: 63|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Morris was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and attended Avonworth High School in the northwestern suburbs of the city. He attended West Texas State University (now known as West Texas A&M University) from 1965 to 1969, where he was an All-American at tailback in 1967 and 1968. In 1967, he finished second in the nation to O.J. Simpson of USC in rushing yards with 1274. In his record setting year of 1968, he set collegiate records for rushing yards in a single game, with 340, rushing yards for a single season with 1571, and rushing yards over a three-year college career (freshmen being ineligible), with 3388. Simpson broke the single-season rushing record just one week after Morris set it. Morris' three-season career rushing record was broken two years later by Don McCauley.
Morris excelled as both a running back and kick returner. The majority of his playing days were spent with the Miami Dolphins. From 1969 to 1971, he backed up Jim Kiick at halfback and served as the Dolphins' primary kickoff return man. In his rookie year of 1969, Morris averaged 26.4 yards per kickoff return, leading the AFL in kickoff returns with 43 and in kickoff return yardage with 1136. Both totals would have also led the NFL. His 105-yard return was the longest in the AFL that season, and he was also one of the AFL's leading punt returners that year. In 1970, he missed some time on the field due to a leg injury, but his 6.8 yard per carry average on 60 runs was the highest in the league among players with at least 50 runs.
In 1971, despite being unhappy with his minimal playing time as backup halfback, he helped the Dolphins to their first Super Bowl, Super Bowl VI, by leading the American Football Conference (AFC) with a 28.2 yard kickoff return average. During the regular season, Morris also made the most of his opportunities at running back, gaining 315 rushing yards on 57 carries for a 5.5 yard average, an average that would have led the NFL, had he had enough carries to qualify. That season, Morris was selected for the Pro Bowl for the first time as a kick returner, although he also was used as a running back in the game.
In the 1972 and 1973 seasons, Morris earned Super Bowl rings in Super Bowl VII and Super Bowl VIII, and was selected for the Pro Bowl in both years. In 1972, he shared the halfback position with Kiick, participating in a few less plays than Kiick, but having more carries as a running back. That year, he ran for exactly 1,000 yds on 190 carries, becoming, with teammate Larry Csonka, the first 1,000-yard tandem in NFL history. Morris was first thought to have finished with 991 yards, but the Dolphins' management asked the league to examine a play in which Morris fumbled a lateral; Morris was awarded the nine yards previously recorded as lost on the play, giving him 1,000 yards for the season. That year, Morris also led the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns, and his 5.3 yard per carry average was third in the NFL.
By 1973, Morris had taken over the starting halfback spot and rushed for 954 yards on 149 carries, despite playing with a neck injury late in the season. His 6.4 yard per carry average led the NFL that season, and he finished third in the NFL in rushing touchdowns.
Morris excelled in several playoff games leading up to Miami's two Super Bowl championships. In 1972, he led the Dolphins in rushing in both the divisional playoff game against Cleveland and the AFC Championship Game against Pittsburgh with 72 yards and 76 yards respectively. In 1973, he led the Dolphins in rushing for the divisional playoff game against Cincinnati with 106 yards, and added 86 more rushing yards in the AFC Championship Game against Oakland.
Morris continued playing for the Dolphins in 1974 and 1975, before spending the last season of his shortened career playing for the San Diego Chargers in 1976. In 1974, he was slated to become the team's primary running back after Csonka defected to the World Football League, but a knee injury Morris suffered in the preseason limited him to five regular season games that year. In 1975, Morris led the Dolphins in rushing yards, with 875, despite sharing the halfback position with Benny Malone. After being traded to San Diego before the 1976 season, he ran for 256 yards on 50 carries that year and decided to retire after the season, in part due to lingering difficulties from the neck injury suffered in 1973.
Morris finished in the top five of the NFL in rushing touchdowns twice and total touchdowns once during his eight-year career. His career 5.1 yard per carry average was third all time among NFL players (1st among half backs) behind just fullbacks Jim Brown and Marion Motley. As of 2017, he ranked 6th all time behind Brown, Motley, running back Jamaal Charles and quarterbacks Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham. Morris' career kickoff return average of 26.5 is among the all-time top 20 for players with at least 100 returns, and was in the top 10 at the time of his retirement. As of 2017 he was ranked 18th.
In 1982, Morris was convicted of cocaine trafficking. He was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment, with a mandatory fifteen-year term. On March 6, 1986, his conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court because evidence he had offered to prove his entrapment defense had been excluded under a mistaken characterization as hearsay. Morris was granted a new trial. He was able to reach a plea bargain with the prosecutor, resulting in his release from prison May 23, 1986, after having served three years.
He later went on to a career as a motivational speaker.
Towards the end of 2006, he was in a television commercial spot for a hair-treatment clinic, along with Wade Boggs.