If you were told to create a college football award that was uniquely Seattle, you’d invent the Morris Trophy. This award honors the hardest-working and most-overlooked players in the game. Pacific Northwest fans have always appreciated good line play so it’s appropriate that the award honoring the best such players in the PAC 12 is at home in Seattle at the Washington Athletic Club. The Morris Trophy is a one of kind award in that it is the only college football trophy voted on by the true experts: the players. The Morris Trophy story has an “only in Seattle” kind of feel to it as well. It was born at Husky Stadium and received the validation it needed from one of the most famous college football coaches in the history of the game.
The idea for the award came from Traci Morris Drake. In the late ’70s she was married to University of Washington offensive tackle Joe Sanford. While attending games she often wondered why none of the post season awards went to the linemen. In early 1980, Traci met with University of Washington football coach Don James. She told James that she wanted to give an award to the best offensive lineman in the PAC 10 Conference as voted on by the players.
James liked the plan but with two caveats. He thought there should be a similar award given to the top defensive lineman in the league and he thought the coaches should nominate players so they’d be invested in the award. Traci agreed and with the help of James and UW AD Mike Lude she presented her plan at the annual meeting of PAC 10 coaches (which was being held that year in Bellevue, Washington). The coaches agreed to help so all Traci needed now was a trophy.
Seattle based Athletic Awards conceived a design for the trophy and at this point it dawned on Traci that typical of most college students she was long on ideas but short on cash. And typical of most college students she turned to her Dad for assistance. G. Patrick Morris played football in the 1950s at Boise State University (then Boise Junior College). He loved the idea and agreed to pay for the award that Traci told him would be named in his honor. After the 1980 season the first Morris Trophy was awarded. The offensive line winner was Roy Foster of USC. The defensive winner was Vince Goldsmith of Oregon.
For several years the award was presented at the annual Seattle Times Gold Helmet Banquet in Seattle. When that banquet went out of business no other Seattle organization was willing to step up and host the award so the presentation was moved to Palo Alto at the PALO club which made the Morris Trophy part of a yearly awards banquet. When the PALO club hit upon hard times in the early 2000s, Seattle businessman (and former WAC chair) Patrick Crumb led an effort to bring the trophy back to Seattle where it would be presented by the Washington Athletic Club’s 101 Club. Fittingly, when the award was presented in Seattle in 2005 for the first time in nearly 20 years, the guest speaker was Don James.
Every player who ever won the Morris Trophy was drafted or signed to play for a professional football team. Many have become All Pro players, several have played in Super Bowls, seven have won a Super Bowl ring and four have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But there was only one time where they were deemed the very best at their job by the people who know best: other players. That was the day they won the Morris Trophy, the most unique award in college football.