On one hand, the former Stanford University star instantly became the talk of the MLS offseason after announcing his plan to sign with the Sounders on a Homegrown contract back in January. In the process, he’s already generated enough hype, media fanfare and expectations to last an entire career all before even playing his first professional club match.
However, talk to the 21-year-old Mercer Island, WA-native for a few minutes and it becomes clear that he’s unnaturally level-headed and not one to be rattled by all the outside noise that has accompanied his move to his hometown club. MLSsoccer.com caught up with Morris at Seattle’s team media day at CenturyLink Field on Monday, talking life on and off the field for this season’s most talked-about rookie.
He’s a dog guy
So, what does the league’s hottest young prospect like to do in his free time? Keep it low-key, mostly. In addition to his family, Morris has an entourage of furry friends to keep him occupied when he’s not on the soccer field.
“I have three dogs so I like to hang out with them, take them on walks and just kind of relax with my family, watch movies – that kind of stuff,” Morris says of his off-field priorities. “Nothing too special.”
If you’re the type that requires photographic evidence, we’ve got you covered below.
How do you make an airport arrival even better? Add a puppy pic.twitter.com/TjLiC6i2o9— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) January 22, 2016
He’s living at home
Morris might be fresh off signing his first professional contract but he doesn’t have to worry about paying rent just yet. He’s been living at home since his move back to the Pacific Northwest, reaping the benefits in the form of home-cooked meals and all the additional perks that come with living with family.
“It’s great, it feels like I’m in high school,” Morris said. “It’s good to be back with my mom and my sister and my dad.”
If he wasn’t a soccer player…
Morris was on track for a Science, Technology and Society major at Stanford before leaving after his junior season to sign with the Sounders.
“For me, it was pretty much like a business degree,” he said.
Asked about a potential career path if he wasn’t a professional soccer player, Morris says he would probably want to stay in the sports industry in some capacity.
“I have no idea but probably something in sports management or something like that,” Morris said. “I’d want to stay around athletics and stuff like that. But I’m actually not really sure.”
His other favorite sport?
Morris played some baseball and basketball growing up before fully committing to soccer around age 13, although he says his preferred pastime when he’s not playing soccer is tennis.
“I like tennis a lot, actually,” he said. “I don’t really go out and play baseball or basketball with my friends, but we play tennis.”
Game like Wayne
Morris says his favorite overseas club is Arsenal. However, his favorite player to watch – and the one he tries to emulate in his own game – suits up for Manchester United.
“I like to watch Wayne Rooney play,” Morris said. “We kind of have a little bit similar styles, so it’s fun to watch and learn from him.”
His dad works for the Sounders
Morris played for local club Eastside FC for his Under-11 to Under-17 years and starred for Seattle’s youth academy in 2012-13. His local connections run even deeper than that. His father, Dr. Michael Morris, has acted as the Sounders’ Chief Medical Officer since the team’s first MLS season in 2009 meaning he’ll have family at home and at work this season.
He can juggle (not just soccer balls)
Morris says that his extra-curricular activities in addition to soccer growing up mostly revolved around other sports. But when asked if he has any special or hidden talents that might be of interest to the outside world, one in particular came to mind.
“I can juggle,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest one.”
His national team career is well underway
During his three-season run at Stanford, Morris was a three-time first team All-Pac-12 selection, the Pac-12 player of the year in 2015 and the winner of last year’s MAC Hermann Trophy (awarded to the nation’s top collegiate soccer player). But the best evidence of his accelerated development has to be his US national team chops.
Morris was given his first USMNT senior cap on August 28, 2014, making him the first collegiate player to earn a cap in almost 20 years. He already has nine career caps, with plenty more sure to come.
He hasn’t used his FIFA videogame character much…yet.
One of the biggest perks of turning pro is the distinction of being featured as a player in EA Sports’ FIFA video game. However, Morris says he hasn’t yet had much of a chance to capitalize on his newfound video game presence.
“A few months ago they put me in a game for like a week or so and I think I played as myself once,” Morris said. “But it’s definitely a surreal feeling to see yourself in a video game. It’s pretty cool.”
He’s got some big shoes to fill this season
It has yet to be technically finalized but all indications are that the Sounders are losing star forward Obafemi Martins to Shanghai Shenhua of the Chinese Super League.
Losing a leading goal-scorer and perennial MVP candidate just weeks before the regular season starts could be a crippling blow to some teams, but having a 21-year-old super-prospect waiting in the wings isn’t a bad contingency plan, according to Sounders captain Brad Evans.
“I think we can all agree if we could choose a player to step in it would be Jordan,” Evans said of his new teammate. "Everybody in the locker room has been extremely happy, we haven't really spoken about Oba at all. From that standpoint, if we thought there was something missing, there would be more chatter. But the reality is we've been extremely happy with Jordan. He's developed into an extremely smart player."