Morelli critical of former high school coach
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli has not spoken with Penn Hills High School coach Neil Gordon since his final game with the Indians in fall of 2003. But Morelli had plenty to say about his former coach yesterday during an interview with reporters.
Morelli accused Gordon and a former member of his coaching staff of spreading rumors about his inability to read defenses and his level of intelligence. He also said Gordon kept college recruiting letters from him and tried to sabotage his recruitment.
"Coaches would send letters and things, and he wouldn't give them to me," said Morelli, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior who is in his first season as Penn State's starter.
"Finally, I started getting them. My dad went and talked to him. He would give us the letters, but he wouldn't send out tapes. He just wouldn't support me like other coaches support their players. He wouldn't help me out.
"Any other high school coach would take their quarterbacks to camps. They go everywhere with them. They talk about them like they're the greatest thing in the world."
Morelli said his family's relationship with Gordon soured when Morelli and his father, Greg, sought out football camps during the summers of his sophomore and junior seasons. He said Gordon did not appreciate Morelli pursuing other ways of doing things.
"I've been dealing with this stuff since high school," he said. "I guess the coach really didn't agree with some of the stuff I did, going to camps and just trying to get my name out there and get a scholarship. I guess that's where all the negative talk started.
"My coach in high school didn't want all that publicity and all the [college] coaches coming. He wasn't that type of guy. He really only cared about his team and his team only. He didn't really care about getting his kids scholarships and talking to coaches. He didn't go that second mile to help kids get to the next level. I took it upon myself, me and my dad, to go to camps in California and [Penn State] and other schools, whatever it took to get scholarships. I guess he didn't like that."
Morelli had kept his feelings to himself for more than three years, but decided to unload on Gordon because of a television interview he saw during the broadcast of the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game between Penn Hills and Upper St. Clair three weeks ago.
"I was watching the high school championship game, and he's saying this kid who is about 5-10 and can't really throw, and he's saying how far ahead he is from where I was," Morelli said. "He's just constantly bashing me.
"I wish the kid all the luck in the world. I hope he does good and goes to a big-time school and whatnot. But why is [Gordon] constantly bashing me? I have all the records at Penn Hills, and he's talking about this little kid who came in and how much further ahead compared to where I was. For what? He'll never get my records. I'm just tired of all the negative talk ... I don't know what it is he has against me."
Sophomore Tom Fulton led Penn Hills to the WPIAL championship game in November. Gordon said he never brought up Morelli's name with the media that he can recall the entire season. He said the interview in question was given by Woodland Hills coach George Novak and that Novak said Fulton was further along in his development at this stage than Morelli.
Gordon did not wish to respond to the allegations that he tried to sabotage Morelli's recruitment and spread rumors about his intelligence.
Morelli said that was the first time he had heard Gordon speak about him during an interview, but he blamed Gordon and former Penn Hills quarterbacks coach Steve Russell for spreading the rumors that first started when he was still in high school.
"Mark Madden [of ESPN Radio 1250] played dek hockey with Steve Russell. Steve Russell would bash me to him, and he would get on the radio," Morelli said. "He's hearing this from my coach, so he thinks it's true. People hear things, and they just run with it."
Morelli led Penn State to an 8-4 record in the regular season as the Nittany Lions earned a berth in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against Tennessee. But it has been a tough first season in the limelight for Morelli, who received the brunt of the criticism from fans and some members of the media for Penn State's lack of offensive production.
He said he received one e-mail from a fellow student who encouraged him to kill himself. Morelli usually does not have much to say to reporters, but he was emotional yesterday and seemed to use his interview as a therapy session.
"I had to get it off my chest," he said. "I'm tired of people thinking I'm this idiot quarterback. I'll sit down with anybody and read defenses. It's easy. I don't want you guys to think I'm complaining. I'm not. I just want you guys to know where it all comes from. I'm just tired of all the negative talk about reading defenses and all that stuff. Are you kidding me? Joe Paterno wouldn't have recruited me. I wouldn't be the starting quarterback for Penn State if I couldn't read a defense."
Morelli said he has no desire to speak with Gordon, but he said if he did see him, he would let his feelings be known in person.
"I'd just say, 'Thanks for everything you've done for me,' " Morelli said. "Thanks for trying to bash me as much as you could. It didn't work, so I'm just going to continue to get better."John Beale, Post-Gazette
"My coach in high school ... really only cared about his team and his team only. He didn't really care about getting his kids scholarships and talking to coaches. He didn't go that second mile to help kids get to the next level."
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First Published December 15, 2006 12:00 am