Jeff Morris will step down after 22 years leading the Bulldogs
By Victor Parkins
After 22-seasons leading the Milan Bulldog football team, Jeff Morris is stepping down from the position of head coach.
Morris, 56, compiled a record of 222 wins and 69 losses (.76%) over his storied career at MHS. His Bulldogs won back-to-back state championships in 1998 and 1999, and were runners up in ’08, ’09, ’11 & ’12 and played in 12 state semi-final games. His teams completed undefeated seasons four times and averaged 10 wins per season with a playoff record of 53-19.
The coach said he realized it was time to step down after his team beat Westview on September 1st of this year.
“That Sunday morning when I got up to work it just hit me that I didn’t have it in me to do this anymore,” said Morris. “I discussed it with my wife, Cindy, and my principal, Greg Scott. I think the 7-day work weeks, the long hours and constant demands have just taken a toll on me and was physically wearing me down. The person leading this program needs to have the passion and the willingness to prepare week in and out because this is so much more than just a job,” he said.
Coach Morris said after two decades of leading the program, he’ll miss the day to day relationships with everyone associated with the team.
“You develop close bonds with coaches and players and I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of great ones over my time here. You get to see the best in human nature when you work and connect with one another. Being the coach of the Milan Bulldogs is a big part of who I am and always will be. This wasn’t an easy decision,” he added.
Morris first came to Milan as an assistant under Dan Bland in 1994. Before that, he spent 9 years as an assistant in Henry County, giving him 33 years of coaching experience.
Reflecting back on his career, Morris said there were many accomplishments that stood out.
“Obviously my 3rd and 4th seasons when we won the state championships were huge but after setting the bar that high, that made my job even harder because that was the expectation. I think more than the championships I’m just as proud of the consistency of winning year in and out. I think we put a very good product on the field every year.”
When asked to name the top players he coached, Morris reeled off four names fairly quickly.
“Rod Smith, Avery Williamson, Arkel Coleman and Daylan Walker we all big time players,” he said. “But it’s hard to compare the skill athletes with linemen. Jacob Rimmer and Bryce King were two of the better linemen I coached. I’m probably more partial to the kids with average talent that worked hard to became good players. Those are the ones I really admire and have respect for,” he said.
In regard to the future of the program, Morris believes the Bulldogs will be just fine without him.
“If I didn’t really believe that I wouldn’t leave now,” admitted Morris. “We’ve got four other very capable coaches in that locker room and a bunch of talent is coming back next season. The program is much bigger than me and it might be even better when I’m gone. If they ever need me, I’ll be around to help if they ask. Milan is my home now and I’m not planning on going anywhere,” he noted.
Although he’s going to enjoy some time away from the game, Morris says he’s way too young to completely retire.
“I’m exploring a couple of possibilities in the business world around here but I really hope the school will offer me some kind of part time role in the system. I won’t totally rule out the possibility of coaching again someday but right now, I need to get away from the game for awhile.”
“I really appreciate the opportunity that was extended to me 24 years ago and I’ve had so much support along the way,” continued Morris. “From the community to the Quarterback Club, the administration, school board, coaches and players. They’ve all been so supportive. It takes a lot to make a program like this one successful.”
Milan High School Principal and Athletic Director Greg Scott issued the following statement about Morris’ decision to step down.
“First, on behalf of all Bulldogs, I would like to thank Jeff Morris for his significant impact on our football program, our school, and our community,” said Scott. “He took a program that was rich in tradition, high expectations, and pride and built on that. Milan football remains one of the elite in West Tennessee due to the influence he has had in the lives of the young men to come through Milan High School in the past 22 years. I consider him a friend and wish him nothing but the best. I know that whatever he chooses to be involved in will be successful, because that’s the person that he is.”
Mr. Scott said he would seek a new coach to maintain the level of excellence associated with Bulldog football.
“My attention turns to providing our school with someone that has the experience, integrity, and character to lead our program in the manner that Bulldog fans have come to expect. Our players, coaches, and community deserve nothing but the best fit for us and that person will be charged with carrying on the success that John Tucker established and Jeff Morris continued in a manner befitting a Bulldog. I look forward to the process and will be working very hard to make sure the next Head Football Coach is someone we can all get behind and support.”
Director of Schools Jonathan Criswell echoed Scott’s remarks about Coach Morris’ success in Milan.
“Jeff Morris is a first-class individual that has represented Milan well both on and off the field,” noted Criswell. “We owe both Jeff and his wife Cindy a debt of gratitude for the time and effort they have invested into the Milan football program.”
State Champions (2): 1998 Class 2A, 1999 Class 3A
State Runner-up (4): 2008 Class 2A, 2009 Class 3A, 2011 Class 3A, 2012 Class 3A
Undefeated Regular Seasons (4): 1999, 2003, 2008, 2009
10+ Win Seasons (14): 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014
District-Region Champions (9): 1994, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
State Playoff Appearances 18
State Quarterfinal Games (16): 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014
State Semifinal Games (12): 1994, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014
Mr. Football Award Winners (1): 2003 – Rod Smith, Class 2A Back
Mr. Football Award Finalists (7): 1994 – Andre Stewart, Class 2A Back; 1999 – Nick Dunlap, Class 3A Back; 1999 – Robert Treadway, Class 3A Lineman; 2000 – Willie Mobley, Class 3A Back; 2000 – Quentin Hodge, Class 3A Lineman; 2003 – Terricus Davis, Class 2A Lineman
Playoff Record 53-19
2015 9-4 playoffs 2-1
2016 9-3 playoffs 1-1
2017 6-6 playoffs 1-1