This is the chapter of Isaiah Morris’ story when the celebration was supposed to take place. The heartbreak and struggle of the past five years were to be replaced by mylar balloons and kisses on the cheek and congratulatory handshakes.
But nothing in Morris’ life has gone according to script.
“There’s times where it’s hard being happy,” he said, “but even when it’s a bad day, you’ll still see me with a smile on my face.”
Morris, a standout running back for Desert Pines’ football team, endured a childhood filled with personal tragedy.
The onetime UNLV commit remains undecided on his college plans, according to Jaguars coach Tico Rodriguez, and it is uncertain whether Morris will sign Wednesday, the first day football and soccer recruits can sign a letter of intent.
“In my 20 years of coaching, he’s probably one of the most mentally tough kids,” Rodriguez said. “The situation that he had to endure, I couldn’t imagine. But he’s just been a great leader. He’s never used excuses in life. He’s just an all-around great kid.”
Morris’ mother, Shantah Joshua-Dorsey, was killed the morning of Jan. 10, 2012, at age 30 when she was struck by a pickup truck while crossing the street near Eastern and Cedar avenues. Her death was ruled an accident.
Morris’ father, Booker T. Morris, died before his son’s first birthday when he was hit by a car while riding his bike.
“I know deep down I made them proud,” Morris said. “They see that I didn’t use that as an excuse. I used it as motivation, and that’s what keeps me going is my parents and my siblings, also. They keep me going, they keep me motivated.”
Morris was one of the key players in Desert Pines’ rise to prominence, as he rushed for more than 4,700 yards and 60 touchdowns in his three-year varsity career. As a senior, Morris rushed for 1,816 yards and 24 touchdowns and led the Jaguars to the Class 3A state title while earning first-team all-state honors.
“I feel that the obstacles he’s overcome have spoke volumes of his foundation,” said Desert Pines quarterback Marckell Grayson, Morris’ longtime friend. “He became an extraordinary young gentleman, and I think what he had to go through created who he is today.”
Morris made an oral commitment to UNLV in March before he backed off that pledge in the summer. He said he was uncertain at the time whether he wanted to stay in Las Vegas for college.
Morris was drawing interest from Eastern Washington and UNR during the season before both of those schools underwent coaching changes and stopped recruiting him.
Morris, at 5 feet 8 inches and 160 pounds, projects as a slot receiver at the college level.
“With the new Air Raid offenses where you’re getting the ball out and fast reads, he’s the prototype in the slot,” Rodriguez said. “He’s electric in space. It just takes the right coach that sees his talent and is creative to use his talent. But he’s definitely a weapon.”
Morris has a scholarship offer from Adams State (Colorado) and is being heavily recruited by Southern Utah. Rodriguez said he also hopes UNLV jumps back into the picture.
Even if he doesn’t make his college choice official Wednesday, Morris is almost certain to sign before the signing period ends April 1.
And expect plenty of tears of joy when he does.
“After everything I’ve been through, the tragedies, I didn’t think I was going to be able to handle all of that,” Morris said. “I’m stronger than I thought. Everything was a lesson, and I learned from it.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.