Joe Morrison

Joe Morrison

Joseph R. Morrison (August 21, 1937 – February 5, 1989) was an American football player in the National Football League for the New York Giants and a coach best known as the head coach at the University of South Carolina.


  • Playing career 1
  • Coaching career 2
  • Morrison's traditions at South Carolina 3
  • Sources 4
  • References 5

Playing career

Morrison was born in Lima, Ohio. He attended the University of Cincinnati where he played both halfback and quarterback and also played on defense during his three varsity seasons. Morrison was drafted by the Giants in the third round of the 1959 NFL Draft, where he mostly played at the positions of running back and wide receiver. He had a long career with the Giants, playing from 1959 to 1972. He is 3rd on the Giants' team record for receptions, with 395 catches, from seven different quarterbacks; over his career his plays gained 4,993 yards. His jersey number (#40) has been retired by the Giants.

Morrison's best individual season as a receiver came in 1966 when the Giants won only one game. He caught 46 passes for 724 yards and scored six touchdowns. While the Giants fell on hard times, Morrison was one of the bright stars on the team. He also had five seasons of forty receptions or more between 1964 and 1971.

Because he played many positions as needed for the Giants, he was nicknamed "Old Dependable."

Coaching career

Joe Morrison was a head coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, University of New Mexico, and University of South Carolina. He is one of the few major college head coaches to never work as an assistant coach.

Other than his NFL years, he is best remembered as the head coach at South Carolina. Morrison came to USC after three seasons with the Lobos of the University of New Mexico. He was a hot prospect, having gone 10-1 in 1982. Morrison took the Gamecocks to three postseason games (1984 and 1987 Gator Bowl and the 1988 Liberty Bowl) during his tenure.

It was under Morrison in 1983 that South Carolina began the tradition of Einleitung from Also Sprach Zarathustra (theme from the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey") as its pre-game anthem and entrance song. The idea had actually originated with former quarterback Tommy Suggs, who suggested it to then-coach and athletic director Jim Carlen in 1981. However, Carlen wanted the Carolina Band to play it rather than have it played over the stadium's sound system. When Carlen left after the season, Suggs took the idea to his successor as athletic director, Bob Marcum. While Marcum liked it, he suggested that they wait to play it until a brand-new sound system could be installed in 1982. The song was finally played for the first time in Morrison's first year, and partly because of his success the song is identified with him.

Morrison's second season, 1983, was until the turn of the century reckoned as the greatest in school history. It was affectionately dubbed the "Black Magic" year by South Carolina fans because of the team's success and because of Morrison's famous all-black attire (cap, shirt, pants). The team ran a streak of nine consecutive wins (longest single season streak in school history) and was ranked #2 in the nation before being upset by All-American players in James Seawright (linebacker) and Del Wilkes (offensive lineman), as well as future NFL players Sterling Sharpe (1984–1987), and Brad Edwards (1984–1987).

Other notable players coached by Morrison included Harold Green, who spent several years with the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL, current Gamecock football radio broadcaster Todd Ellis, who is the all-time passing leader at South Carolina, and Robert Brooks, who was part of the Green Bay Packers 1997 Super Bowl Championship team. During the time, Charlie Weis, current Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator, was an assistant coach under Morrison, his first coaching job in the college ranks. Also serving as an assistant during Morrison's tenure was Al Groh, who went on to be head coach of the New York Jets and formerly the head coach at the University of Virginia.

After back-to-back 8-4 season in 1987 and 1988, expectations were high in Columbia for the 1989 campaign. However, it would not come to pass as Morrison collapsed after playing racquetball at Williams-Brice Stadium, and died on February 5, 1989, at age 51 from congestive heart failure.

Morrison won his 100th game as a coach in 1988, when South Carolina beat N.C. State 23-7.

Morrison's traditions at South Carolina

Morrison's legacy still is in place at the University of South Carolina in various ways:

  • Black jerseys as part of uniform options are used in football and all sports.
    • Morrison began the use of black jerseys as a uniform option and used them as the team's primary home jerseys during the 1987 and 1988 seasons
  • The use of Einleitung from Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey") was a tradition started by Morrison for the football team's pre-game entrance and is still done so today. The theme has been spread to other sports and university functions, including graduations, where it is played to recognise graduates.
  • An outstanding football player from spring practice on both offense and defense are awarded the "Joe Morrison Award" each year.


  • NNDb


  • New York Giants: Skill Positions at The Sporting News
  • New York Giants at Sports Encyclopedia
  • [1] at Pro Football Reference