Gallagher column: Teammates do the bragging for Romar

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 7, 2011

SALISBURY — After he was named North Carolina Athlete of the Year at the NCHSAA meeting in Chapel Hill on Thursday, Romar Morris was asked what reaction he’d get at school the next day.
He rolled his eyes and chuckled, “John (Knox) and Darien (Rankin) will probably call me ‘Athlete of the Year.’ ”
Does Romar know his buddies or what?
It didn’t take long for the good-natured razzing to begin. First period Advanced Functions, to be exact. Teacher Dale Snyder, who is also the golf coach at Salisbury, decided to run a Channel 14 clip of Morris being interviewed.
Knox was in there chanting “Athlete of the Year.”
It didn’t stop. In David Johnson’s second period psychology class, Morris watched the clip. Over and over and over.
Again, Knox, the quarterback who has handed the football off to Romar since the sixth grade, led the cheers.
“It’s fun having John and Romar in the same class,” chuckled Snyder. “They go at each other: ‘You’re the greatest. No, you’re the greatest.’ ”
Knox acknowledged that fact, adding, “I was just messing with him. We were all messing with him. Romar’s like, ‘Why y’all doing this?’ ”
Because that’s what teenagers do. Especially when they know Romar deserved every bit of the attention.
“We gave him a standing ovation,” Snyder said.
When Romar saw Rankin later in the day, it was the same type of cajoling.
“Me and John picked at him a little bit,” laughed Rankin. “But we’re happy for him. He doesn’t like to brag about it so we’ll brag for him.”

It’s that camaraderie that made the Big Three — Morris, Rankin and Knox — state championship-caliber people, as well as athletes. Each appreciated what the other two brought to the table.
And Romar feasted on opponents.
He finished his football season with 1,780 yards rushing while scoring 30 touchdowns. He and the Hornets won the school its first NCHSAA state title and he was MVP.
During the winter, he turned the spotlight over to Rankin, who would become the county player of the year in basketball. Morris played hoops but was smart enough to know this was Darien’s world. He concentrated on defense.
During those cold days, little was mentioned about what he was doing on weekends. He would eventually win the 55-meter state title in indoor track.
Add that to football and the back-to-back outdoor state titles in the 100 and 200 and he has six state championships in his career. This year’s outdoor postseason begins next week so there are two more titles looming.
Through it all, Romar just wears a sheepish grin.
“If you don’t know him, he’s shy,” Knox said. “He’s so humble.”

Shy, maybe, until he hits the playing field. Then, all that personality comes out.
Chad Tedder was in his first football season at East Rowan this past fall but he said to remember he was the defensive coordinator at West Davidson before that. So he’s seen more of Romar Morris than he wanted.
“I’m glad he’s gone,” laughed Tedder, who went on to lavish praise on how Morris was just as good of a person as an athlete.
When East played Salisbury back in August, Tedder tried to take away the wishbone fullback and Knox.
Morris finished the game with three touchdowns, two of more than 80 yards.
“You give him an inch, he takes 100 yards,” Tedder said afterward.
And so it went. Even in basketball, his third sport, he had his moments. In the sectional final against Cuthbertson in a tight game, Romar made a spin move for a layup that Allen Iverson would have been proud of.

The one constant for Romar is his smile. He smiles an awful lot. Like on Thursday when he received the award. And on Friday when the TV clip was played.
“He was all shy like he didn’t want to see it,” laughed Dominique Dismuke, who will take over the load at running back next season. “But he deserves all of it.”
“I couldn’t be more happy,” Knox said.
Knox was asked what makes his buddy the “Romarkable” athlete he is.
“All I can say is hard work and dedication,” he said.
Salisbury football coach Joe Pinyan said he is sure others are noticing.
“There are kids in the fourth, fifth and sixth grade who want to be Romarkable,” Pinyan said.
Turning out like romar Morris is a goal all youngsters would be smart to go after.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or