Finally, Joe Morris could give the Giants’ players a piece of his mind.
This was last Tuesday, when the former running back and Super Bowl champion was asked to address the team after training camp practice. Morris figured it was a good opportunity to remind the team that they were expected to adhere to the NFL’s regulations regarding their uniforms, from how to wear their socks to making sure their jerseys are tucked in.
Giants fans may remember Morris as one of the league’s top running backs during the mid-1980s, and his signature runs were a major part of the team’s march to its first Super Bowl championship after the 1986 season. But these days, Morris serves as the team’s “uniform police,” the guy who sits in the press box during games and keeps track of uniform violations that often result in league-mandated fines.
“I told the players, ‘I want nothing but the best for you, because you’re a player that plays for the Giants, but realize that there’s a set of rules that need to be adhered to,’ ” Morris said Monday in an interview with Newsday. “ ‘If the league office calls me about a uniform [violation], you’re going to hear about it. You have a choice. Fix it or not. If you don’t fix it, you get fined. Don’t complain about it, it’s your fault.’”
He’d gotten his point across, and he was satisfied the players got the message. Only that’s not why Morris was invited to be with the team. Moments later, he experienced the thrill of a lifetime when he found out why he was asked to be there.
Team owner John Mara told the players that Morris was one of a handful of other players who would soon be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.
A huge smile crossed his face, and tears welled in his eyes as Mara told the team that Morris, fellow running backs Ottis Anderson and Rodney Hampton, defensive end Leonard Marshall, and the late Kyle Rote and Jimmy Patton would be inducted. Also joining this prestigious group in Giants’ immortality: Ronnie Barnes, the team’s beloved trainer since 1980.
“I just stood there with my mouth open,” Morris said. “I couldn’t believe it. I’m going, ‘What?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, my God. He said the Ring of Honor.' It was a flood of emotions.”
It was something Morris had privately hoped for since he last played for the Giants in 1988. Morris ran for 1,516 yards and 14 touchdowns in the Giants’ first Super Bowl season, powering an offense that complemented a defense led by Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Carl Banks. As well as Marshall, the rugged defensive end who had 12 of his 83 1/2 career sacks that season. Marshall was also a key contributor in the Giants’ second Super Bowl run, when his forced fumble of Joe Montana in the 1990 NFC Championship Game helped set the stage for a matchup against the Bills in Super Bowl XXV.
“When I joined this football team, I had no idea of the support and the family that I was walking into,” Marshall told the Giants. “I got a chance to be a part of something special.”
Anderson was the MVP in that 20-19 upset victory, leading the Giants’ rushing attack and keeping Jim Kelly’s high-octane offense off the field for most of the game.
“You see the names that are already up there [in the Ring of Honor]?” Anderson said. “This proves that we’re Giants forever.”
Fellow tailback Hampton was the second-leading rusher in Giants history, and Patton was a five-time first-team All-Pro defensive back and Rote was a four-time Pro Bowl receiver after switching from running back.
Given the Giants’ struggles in recent years, it’s sometimes hard for today’s fans and players to remember the greatness of previous generations, and as someone who goes back to that first Super Bowl win, it was indeed a transformative moment in franchise history. Morris and Marshall lived it, and a “fellowship of brothers,” as Bill Parcells called it, began to blossom during that unforgettable era.
It’s terrific that Mara is paying tribute to these men, as well as past heroes Rote and Patton, who were stars of another bygone era. And to include Barnes in this group makes it even more special, given his more than four decades of work in a tough business with tough players who invariably spend time in the trainer’s room with an assortment of injuries in the world’s toughest sport.
They will stand before the crowd on Monday night, Sept. 26, at MetLife Stadium, take one more bow for the fans for whom they provided so many memories, and take their permanent place in Giants history.