By Brian Paglia
This was the unlikeliest of scenes: Morrow's school media center, a row of tables nearly stretching across the entire room, just enough to seat each one of the Mustangs' 14 football, track and basketball players about to sign scholarships.
It was a clear statement all of its own, one expressed by each of the coaches that stood to speak during Morrow's signing day ceremony Wednesday. Morrow may not have the same level of success on the field it once enjoyed, but that won't stop it from sending its players on to college.
"We didn't have success on the field, but they all had what it took to play on the next level," Morrow assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Anthony McKissic said. "They were just one play away. They just needed that little bit of motivation."
Twelve of the 14 who signed Wednesday were football players. Their four-year careers on the field were marked by futility and constant coaching turnover. They played for three different coaches with the same results, going a combined 5-35 during their four seasons, including an 0-10 campaign this past fall.
But all of that mattered less to Morrow's coaches than the players' desire to get an education through sports.
"It's not about football. It's about an education," McKissic said. "If we can use football to get an education, then that's what we're going to do.
"A lot of coaches feel like recruiting isn't their job title. They feel like it's a parent's job or a college coach's. College coaches get paid to come and see you, but we take it as our responsibility to get (students) in."
McKissic is Morrow's recruiting coordinator, which means it's his task to find a place for Morrow's athletes to continue playing their sport at the college level.
He makes highlight films, emails college coaches and posts videos on YouTube. Last year he drove three Mustangs football players to Friends University in Kansas during spring break. All three came back with offers.
"If there's a kid that wants to play in college and he comes to Morrow, he will," McKissic said.
There are stipulations attached, he said.
"If he does his part, I vow to do our part," McKissic said. "If he handles his business in the classroom and on the field, then when it comes to me, I'm going to get you in. All I want to hear is, 'I don't care where I want to go.' When they say those key words, we'll get them in."
So McKissic will find any school possible and work any connections available.
McKissic played football for the head coach at Friends, so he called him up and arranged a visit for three Mustangs.
An assistant on the boys basketball team had a son play for then-defensive coordinator and now head coach Kevin Clark at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Fla. One call got seven Mustangs scholarship papers to sign Wednesday.
"What I've learned from going to a small college is they want you, they just don't know you exist," McKissic said. "There's hundreds of colleges that will take guys who are great athletes, they're just not D-I level. But they don't have the funds to come down here and look for them.
"What we do is we'll take them there. I'm going to put you in their face. Here you go. It makes their job a lot easier."
McKissic has been recruiting coordinator for just two years now, but results have been undeniable.
"They helped us get where we need to be," said Forrest Hill, a longsnapper with overtures from Auburn, Arkansas and Morgan State among others. "It's not all about sports. It's about your education. I just thank the coaches for all they've done for us the years I've been here."