TAMPA, Fla. - Sal Alosi had Raheem Morris pegged from the get-go.
"You almost always knew he was going to be a coach because he was so smart," said Jets strength and conditioning coach Alosi, who played football with Morris at Hofstra in the 1990s. "He was always directing everybody on the field; he always knew where everybody was supposed to be. He definitely has worked hard and deserves everything that's coming to him.
"It's ironic that we are playing each other this week with Hofstra dropping the program [10 days ago]."
Morris, who played safety at Hofstra from 1994-97 and was Alosi's teammate from 1996-97, is in his first season as the Buccaneers' head coach. At 33, he's the NFL's youngest head coach, no big surprise in Alosi's eyes. Morris was a natural leader during his Hempstead heyday.
"He could get up on the board and he could draw up every one of our defenses to a 'T' and put everyone in the right position," said Alosi, a former linebacker. "His brain was X's and O's. That's the way he thought."
So it's no coincidence that Morris became a graduate assistant coach at Hofstra in 1998 and wound up coaching the team's defensive backs from 2000-01. He also spent the fall of 2001 with the Jets, serving a defensive minority internship before getting his first NFL gig with the Bucs in 2002 as the defensive quality control coach.
"It really opened my eyes and the doorway to the NFL for me," Morris said of his stint with the Jets. "I was fortunate enough to be around Herman Edwards when he was there. He was very sociable with everybody in the building. He kind of let everybody be involved. A lot of the same people in that building are still working there. They were able to give me a lot of things, help me out and show me the way.
"I've got nothing but great memories about the New York Jets. I was really sad to see them leave the Hofstra campus and I was even more saddened last week when they dropped our football program. I've got really good memories and great memories about the New York Jets."
Morris' first season at the helm for Tampa Bay probably has him reaching for the Rolaids. The Bucs (1-11) are ranked near the bottom of the NFL in virtually every major statistical team category, and he's been dealing with the growing pains.
"It really has been a learning curve for me," Morris said. "I'm going through the process of sitting back and being a game manager to actually calling the defense now. It's been a growing curve . . . It's been something that I like to do. It's been something that has been fun to learn.
"We're getting better and better every week. Now it's a chance to go out there and prove that these last four weeks of the season as we progress until what we're going to become here in the future."