It has been an interesting route for wide receiver Chris Morton.
The Northern State wideout isn’t the most traditional of seniors on the Wolves’ football team. He graduated from Uintah High School in Vernal, Utah, in 2005. He served a two-year mission for his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Fort Worth, Texas, after high school.
“That was probably one of the great experiences of my life,” Morton said, “because you are out there on your own. You don’t have any family, friends. You are put in a place where the church sends you and you go out there and you teach them about religion and Jesus Christ. On a personal standpoint, you really have to look yourself in the mirror and decide if you have enough of a mental positive attitude to keep pushing on.”
Morton, 25, said the mission also helped him on the gridiron as well. It was perhaps no more evident than when he enrolled at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, after his mission was completed in 2007. He was a two-year starter in high school at the quarterback position. However, the shifty Morton was moved to wide receiver when he got to junior college.
“One of those decisions where you are not quite sure at first,” said Morton. “You really hope it is that good decision that you make and it turned out to be, career-wise, the best decision I have ever made.”
At the same time, Morton credits that time spent under center as helping him with the transition to receiver.
“It definitely helped me,” Morton said. “It gave me a different perspective. As a quarterback, you want your receivers to do certain things and I thought that really helped me out when I got on that end. I knew that timing meant a lot, so I needed to get to right depth on my routes and it made learning the offense a lot easier, because I could focus more on one position instead of five.”
The results on the field backed that up. During his two years at Snow, he was all-conference and all-region. He led the team in overall catches and in total receiving yards and was second in the conference in punt returns. Not bad, considering he had never returned a punt until junior college.
Four-year universities took notice of Morton’s production. He originally verbally committed to Division I Weber State, but later de-committed and signed with NSU. Morton also got married about a month and a half before he moved to Aberdeen. His wife Amanda also lives in the Hub City.
“We thought maybe it would be good for us,” Morton said. “We got out and thought it would be a good opportunity for us to get away from the family and just kind of do it on our own and see how that worked out for us. Turned out to be one of the best things we have done.”
He was at his best last season on the field for NSU. The 6-foot, 185-pound Morton started all 11 games for the 5-6 Wolves last year. He was an All-NSIC North first-team selection. He led the Wolves with an average of 108.3 all-purpose yards per game. Morton hauled in 35 receptions for 528 yards and caught seven TDs, the most TD receptions since Brian Jark had eight in 2007. Furthermore, he had 25 kickoff returns for 596 yards and totalled 1,191 all-purpose yards on the season.
All that in just his third year as a wide receiver and return man.
“Football has taught me so many life lessons that I could have never picked up or learned anywhere else,” Morton said. “It has just been the biggest blessing for me to be able to play.”
The Chris Morton File
Family: Parents, Rick and Holly Morton and Kim Downs; sisters, Shelli (29), Jessica (25), Jade (13); brothers, Parker (16), Oakley (11); Wife, Amanda Morton.
High school: Morton graduated from Uintah High in Vernal, Utah, in 2005 where he played football, basketball and baseball. Morton was a three-year letterwinner on the gridiron for the Utes. He was named the team’s offensive most valuable player and named team captain twice. He was also all-state second team, was named twice to the all-conference team and was top 10 in Utah in passing yards.
College: Morton attended Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, after serving a two-year mission in Fort Worth, Texas. He was all-conference and all-region. He led the team in overall catches and in total receiving yards and was second in the conference in punt returns. Last season for the Wolves, he was an All-NSIC North first-team selection.
Most memorable athletic accomplishment: “Switching to receiver and that opening a lot of doors for me as far as schools go and scholarships and things like that. That changed my life. Playing quarterback and then switching over to receiver and being able to start now my third year in a row. That has been a pretty good accomplishment.”
Today: Northern State (0-1, 0-1) will host Southwest Minnesota State (0-1, 0-1) at 2:30 p.m. today in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference matchup at Swisher Field.