Wide receiver Tyler Morris caught three passes for 40 yards on Saturday from quarterback J.J. McCarthy, but Morris has been doing that for years.
Morris and McCarthy first met as teammates in high school at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park, Illinois. Nazareth Academy was already known for being a good high school football program, and with these two talented players joining, the team was ready to get even better.
McCarthy had a natural skill for understanding the game and a strong, precise throw. Even during his high school years, people noticed how calm he stayed when pressured by opponents, something not typical for players his age. This confidence and ability made him a key player in Nazareth’s offensive strategy.
Tyler Morris, meanwhile, became one of McCarthy’s go-to receivers. He had a knack for creating separation from defenders, and his reliable receiving ability and skillset made him a constant challenge for the other team. He often took simple game moments and turned them into big wins for his team.
The connection between McCarthy and Morris grew naturally during the games. At the end of their high school careers, Morris and McCarthy hooked up for 68 receptions, 1,237 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Now at Michigan, McCarthy and Morris are writing a new chapter.
While Morris only tallied three catches for 25 yards last season as a freshman, Morris saw his role severely increase this season with the departure of Ronnie Bell. Against UNLV on Saturday, Morris caught three passes from McCarthy, all on third down to move the chains.
“I love T Mo’s game a lot,” cornerback Mike Sainristil said. “I feel like he’s gonna be a really great receiver. And I’ll say on Saturday, actually, he was 100 percent on third downs when the ball was thrown to him. I think he is gonna be a really great player for us this year and years to come.”
While McCarthy has been in the spotlight for some time, Morris is just starting to get some recognition. It took some time for him to recover from a torn ACL in high school and then adapt to the college game, but nonetheless, both players have stayed level-headed.
“It’s amazing to see (how much attention J.J. gets) because I’ve known him since we were young, like 14, 15 years old,” Morris said. “It’s amazing to see how people are seeing him because to me, that’s just J.J. going out in public sometimes, standing behind him and seeing people stare at him and be amazed to see him. It makes me happy to be able to see that.”
Morris and McCarthy have spent a lot of time together. Outside of football practice and games, they ate lunch together, hung out outside of the locker room, and strategized before games. Throughout all that time, however, their preparation before each game hasn’t changed much.
“(McCarthy’s preparation) has changed a little bit, but I feel like overall, it’s the same as far as what he needs to do mentally to lock in,” Morris said. “Just putting himself in the mindset of getting ready for the game.”
The teamwork between Morris and McCarthy is about more than just their personal skills. It’s about a strong friendship built during their high school football days, which is now ready to shine at the college level. Their time together at Nazareth Academy definitely helped shape their paths in football. As they keep impressing at the University of Michigan, their journey shows how important teamwork, trust and friendship are in sports.