Since the Cleveland Browns won their last NFL championship in 1964, the Browns have twice advanced to consecutive league or conference championship games – the teams in 1986 and 1987, and the teams in 1968 and 1969.
One player who contributed to Cleveland advancing to the 1968 and 1969 league championship games was running back Reece Morrison.
As part of his “four plus” seasons with the Browns, the versatile Morrison, including as a rusher, receiver, passer, kick returner, and punt returner, helped Cleveland achieve success in 1968 and 1969.
— Texas State Football (@TXSTATEFOOTBALL) October 25, 2018
We take a look at the life of Reece Morrison – before, during, and after his NFL playing career.
The Early Years Through High School
Reece Earsal Morrison was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on October 21, 1945.
Morrison attended San Marcos High School in San Marcos, Texas.
San Marcos is in south central Texas, between Austin and San Antonio.
After graduating high school in 1964, Morrison decided to stay in San Marcos to attend Texas State University.
“Coach [Milton] Jowers [head coach at Texas State] didn’t really have to convince me. I was dating a young lady who later became my wife, so I wasn’t thinking about going anywhere – except here.”
Morrison, as a running back, lettered in football at Texas State from 1964 to 1967.
Texas State played in the Lone Star Conference when Morrison was there.
In 1964, Morrison rushed for 433 yards on 97 rushing attempts.
Texas State had an 8-2 record in 1964.
Morrison led Texas State, rushing for 919 yards on 163 rushing attempts in 1965.
He also led Texas State with 11 touchdowns, and 213 kickoff return yards (on 11 kickoff returns), in 1965.
For his play in 1965, Morrison earned National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Honorable Mention honors.
He also was named All-Texas College Honorable Mention and first team All-Lone Star Conference.
The Dallas Morning News rated Morrison as the “top second-year back in the state [Texas]”.
Texas State again had an 8-2 record in 1965.
In 1966, Morrison again led Texas State, rushing for 611 yards on 121 rushing attempts.
Morrison again earned NAIA Honorable Mention honors in 1966.
He also was named All-Texas College First Team and first team All-Lone Star Conference.
In 1966, Texas State posted a 7-2-1 record.
Morrison again led Texas State in 1967, rushing for 414 rushing yards on 88 rushing attempts.
In 1967, Morrison was named Little All-American Honorable Mention by the Associated Press.
He also was named All-Texas College Honorable Mention and (for the third consecutive year) All-Lone Star Conference.
Texas State was undefeated and ranked number one in the nation among small colleges before losing its final game in 1967.
“We were 9-0 and Texas A&I was 9-0 and we played them on their home field and lost. That game I’ll remember most, and most of my teammates will tell you the same.”
Over his four seasons at Texas State, Morrison rushed for 2,377 yards on 469 rushing attempts.
After completing his four years at Texas State, Morrison continued his football career in the NFL.
The Pro Football Years
The Cleveland Browns drafted Morrison in the third round of the 1968 NFL draft; he was the 66th overall pick.
For Morrison, it was a thrill to be drafted in the NFL.
“It blew my mind. The opportunity and chance to play professional football. Most people dream about that who are involved in the sport.”
The NFL also was a huge adjustment for Morrison, as he went from the Wing-T-style offense of Texas State to the pro-style offense of Cleveland.
“They threw a book at you that had everything in it, and you were responsible for it. If you lost it – it was a $500 fine. I don’t have to tell you $500 was a lot of money back then. . . . You make a mistake on the field and you could be gone. I had just gotten married. Everything we had was in the trunk of the old car, so it was a lot of pressure. If I were to be cut I was ready to rock and roll somewhere else.”
Morrison was not cut and made the Browns team as a rookie in 1968.
In 1968, Morrison (playing at a height of six feet and at a weight of 207 pounds) played in all 14, but did not start any, regular season games.
Morrison’s principal offensive role in 1968, and for much of his time with the Browns, was to back-up future Pro Football Hall of Fame Cleveland running back Leroy Kelly.
On September 29, 1968, Morrison had his first game in which he was credited with yards of any type, as he returned one kickoff for 18 yards, in a 24-6 Browns loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
In the November 10, 1968 Cleveland triumph over the Saints, Morrison had his first game in which he gained rushing yards, rushing for four yards on two rushing attempts.
Morrison scored his first NFL regular season touchdowns in the November 24, 1968 Cleveland win over the Eagles.
He rushed for a one-yard touchdown (he rushed for two yards on three rushing attempts) and caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Browns quarterback Frank Ryan.
For the 1968 season, Morrison rushed for 39 yards and the above-described one touchdown on 18 rushing attempts and caught two passes for 40 yards and the above-described one touchdown.
The Browns won the NFL Century Division title, with a 10-4 record, in 1968.
Morrison contributed to the Cleveland offense ranking in the 1968 NFL regular season third in points scored (394), second in total passing and rushing yards (4,889), fourth in passing yards (2,858), second in passing touchdowns (27), first in fewest sacks allowed (21), third in rushing yards (2,031), third in rushing touchdowns (20), and second in average yards per rushing attempt (4.5).
Cleveland first played the Dallas Cowboys in the 1968 NFL playoffs on December 21, 1968.
Morrison played in, but did not start, the game, as the Browns defeated the Cowboys 31-20.
The following week, on December 29, 1968, Cleveland advanced to play the Baltimore Colts in the 1968 NFL championship game.
Morrison again played in, but did not start, the game.
He returned three kickoffs for 51 yards, but the Browns lost to the Colts 34-0.
In 1969, Morrison played in all 14 regular season games and started one regular season game.
For the 1969 regular season, Morrison rushed for 300 yards and one touchdown on 59 rushing attempts (5.1 average yards per rushing attempt), caught six passes for 71 yards, and returned nine kickoffs for 155 yards and 11 punts for 49 yards.
The Browns posted a 10-3-1 record and again won the NFL Century Division title in 1969.
Morrison helped the Cleveland offense rank in the 1969 NFL regular season third in points scored (351), fifth in total passing and rushing yards (4,428), ninth in passing yards (2,640), tied for second in passing touchdowns (24), third in fewest sacks allowed (20), fifth in rushing yards (1,788), tied for first in rushing touchdowns (17), and tied for sixth in average yards per rushing attempt (4.0).
In the 1969 playoffs, the Browns first met the Dallas Cowboys on December 28, 1969.
Morrison played in, but did not start, the game, rushing for three yards on two rushing attempts, catching one pass for 18 yards, and returning one kickoff for 12 yards and one punt for three yards.
Cleveland defeated Dallas 38-14 (eliminating the Cowboys from the playoffs for the second consecutive year).
The following week, on January 4, 1970, the Browns advanced to the 1969 NFL championship game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Morrison again played in, but did not start, the game.
He returned one kickoff for 23 yards and one punt for 11 yards, but Cleveland lost to the Vikings 27-7.
In 1970, Morrison played in all 14, and started two, regular season games.
During the 1970 regular season, Morrison rushed for 175 yards on 73 rushing attempts, caught five passes for 95 yards and the above-described one touchdown, and returned seven kickoffs for 153 yards and 15 punts for 133 yards.
The Browns had a 7-7 record in 1970.
Morrison’s play helped the Cleveland offense rank in the 1970 NFL regular season seventh in total passing and rushing yards (4,161), fifth in passing yards (2,582), second in fewest sacks allowed (16), and tied for seventh in rushing touchdowns (14).
In 1971, Morrison played in eight, and did not start any, regular season games.
His principal role with the Browns in 1971 was on special teams, instead of on offense.
In 1971, Cleveland had a 9-5 record and won the AFC Central Division title.
The Browns met the Baltimore Colts in the 1971 NFL playoffs on December 26, 1971.
Morrison played in, but did not start, the game.
He returned one kickoff for 19 yards, but Cleveland lost to Baltimore 20-3.
In 1972, Morrison played in four, and did not start any, regular season games for the Browns.
Over his four regular season games for the Browns in 1972, Morrison returned the three kickoffs for 67 yards.
During the 1972 season, Morrison switched teams, leaving Cleveland and joining the Cincinnati Bengals.
Per Elias, Austin Seibert is the eighth player to play for the Browns and Bengals in the same season. The others: Reece Morrison, Lee Johnson, Ralph Tamm, Lynn James, Joe King, Sedrick Shaw and Derron Smith. Oh, yeah. One coach, too. Hue Jackson.
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) September 15, 2020
Morrison played in six, and did not start any, regular season games for the Bengals in 1972.
He rushed for two yards on one rushing attempt for Cincinnati.
In 1973, Morrison played in three, but did not start any, regular season games for the Bengals.
He rushed for 11 yards on three rushing attempts and caught one pass for four yards.
1973 was the last year in which Morrison played in the NFL.
The Years After the NFL
Morrison received the Distinguished Alumni Award from San Marcos High School.
In 1985, Morrison was inducted into the Texas State Hall of Honor.
Morrison served on the Board of Directors of the “T” Association at Texas State.
Over his “four plus” regular seasons with the Browns from 1968 to 1972, Morrison rushed for 512 yards (ranking tied for 59th in Cleveland career regular season rushing yards) and two touchdowns (ranking tied for 72nd in Cleveland career regular season rushing touchdowns) on 155 rushing attempts and caught 13 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
In addition, as a returner, over his “four plus” regular seasons with the Browns from 1968 to 1972, Morrison returned 32 kickoffs for 727 yards (ranking 26th in Cleveland career regular season kickoff return yards) and 26 punts for 182 yards (ranking 31st in Cleveland career regular season punt return yards).
Morrison had 22.7 average yards per kickoff return (ranking tied for 68th in Cleveland career regular season average yards per kickoff return) and 7.0 average yards per punt return (ranking tied for 60th in Cleveland career regular season average yards per punt return).
Morrison’s performance helped the Browns win games.
In his four complete seasons with Cleveland, Morrison never played on a team with a losing record and won three division titles and two playoff games.
Most notably, when Leroy Kelly was injured in 1969, Morrison saw increased playing time and helped the Browns defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-20 on September 21 and the Washington Redskins 27-23 on September 28.
In these two games, Morrison rushed for 178 yards on 39 rushing attempts, caught six passes for 71 yards, returned one punt for 15 yards, and completed a 16-yard pass.
Successful NFL teams need stars, but they also need other players.
For every Leroy Kelly, winning NFL teams also need lesser-known players like Reece Morrison who contribute to team success.
When Browns fans remember the winning Cleveland Browns teams of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, they should not forget the solid and versatile play of Reece Morrison – both in stepping up in the absence of Leroy Kelly and otherwise, including as a rusher, receiver, passer, kick returner, and punt returner.