MOBILE, Ala. — Jimmy Morrissey was waiting on a call.
The Pitt center, who finished his redshirt senior season with the Panthers in December and is getting ready to embark on an NFL career, was working out in Pensacola, Florida, preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft and what lies beyond.
He was also hoping to get a call from Jim Nagy at the Senior Bowl, to get an opportunity to showcase his game at the nation’s most prestigious collegiate all-star game.
The call didn’t come, as rosters were announced and players gathered in Mobile for three days of practices. Morrissey assumed that it wasn’t going to.
Then on Friday, it was there. After the American team suffered a number of injuries in the week leading up to the game, Nagy called on Morrissey to fill a vacant spot on the offensive line, an offer that Morrissey readily agreed.
An hour and a half later, he was in Mobile, and just over 24 hours later, he was taking the field in an orange and white uniform, with his familiar blue and gold Pitt helmet.
“I grabbed a to-go plate from the hotel, went up to my room, studied all night, went to bed, woke up and then played ball,” Morrissey said in an exclusive interview with Pittsburgh Sports Now.
Morrissey said it was no trouble to pick up the Carolina Panthers’ offensive scheme that was utilized for the game in just one day, and his performance in the game given the circumstances drew positive reviews.
“At Pitt, it’s fortunate that we ran a pro-style offense and are similar to it, where we ran all the plays that we have, so like all the protections are similar,” Morrissey said. “Their run game was similar. I just needed to put it in the Carolina Panthers’ offensive terminology.”
In Morrissey’s first football action without any practice since Dec. 10, he was not only going up against players that had been preparing for the game all week, he did so first at a position he hasn’t played very much: left guard.
“I just snapped a little bit when I went out for warmups and then I came back in and [Carolina assistant offensive line coach Tony] Sparano came up,” Morrissey said. “He was like, ‘Hey, you’re gonna play left guard, right guard and then center.’
“I’ve never played left guard in my entire life. So, I took a couple left guard sets on the sideline, and then played.”
Morrissey eventually did play all three offensive line positions, and drew a positive review for his performance from Nagy, the Senior Bowl’s director.
“All respect to Pitt’s Jimmy Morrissey,” Nagy wrote on Twitter. “Got a crash course on the offense late last night and played OC and both OG spots in today’s Senior Bowl. Dude is a stud.”
“I thought given the circumstances, I did pretty decent,” Morrissey said. “I would have liked to have played a little bit better at guard. I thought my center tape was solid.”
When Morrissey got into he game, he had some old friends waiting for him. Pitt defenders Damar Hamlin, Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones II were suited up for the National team. Weaver, also playing out of position at defensive tackle, was lined up opposite Morrissey for his very first snap.
“It was fun,” Morrissey said. “I knew Pat and Weave were telling the other defensive tackles how I pass protect, trying to beat me. I knew that they were sharing my secrets. But it was fun talking back and forth out there. I love those guys. They’re close friends to me. So it was fun to go against them. It was a good time.”
The National team ended up with a three-point victory in the game, but for the four Pitt grads that got to participate together, and especially Morrissey with his late addition, the experience was a big win for everyone.
After the game, Morrissey shared a photo on social media of him, Hamlin and Weaver taking a visit to Pitt’s campus before their freshman seasons in 2016. Five years later, they and Jones exited together.
January 30th, 2016 @HamlinIsland @RashadWeaver and myself took a visit to Pitt (@P_jones9 must’ve been on a different one). 5 years later January 30th, 2021 we played in the Senior Bowl. It has been an amazing ride with some amazing people, excited to see what happens next. #H2P pic.twitter.com/fodqntXBRl
— Jimmy Morrissey (@jimbo_slice123) January 31, 2021
In some ways, Morrissey’s wild ride to the Senior Bowl was much like the rest of his college career. Overlooked coming out of high school, Morrissey walked on to Pitt and had to earn his opportunities to play at the next level. At the start of his professional career, he’s doing it again.
“It was pretty surreal,” Morrissey said. “Everything came full circle.”