The band played, the cheerleaders danced and the students hollered as the star running back inside Edison’s auditorium smiled underneath a red Nebraska football cap.
“A pretty cool first day of school,” Edison football coach Tony Daniels said late Wednesday afternoon.
On stage maybe 10 feet away, Sevion Morrison posed for pictures with a table full of family and fives times that many friends and Edison teammates. He had just snapped on that cap to announce his commitment to the Huskers.
A pretty cool day no matter what the calendar said.
“It’s really been an amazing experience, the whole journey,” Morrison said.
Imagine the young man’s future.
Morrison just turned 17 on Aug. 10. He is less than a thousand yards from Spencer Tillman’s hallowed career rushing record at Edison. He’ll break that in September and, he hopes, lead the Eagles back into the Class 5A playoffs by November.
Then Morrison will set his sights on Nebraska and the Big Ten Conference, where a running back who takes deep handoffs still passes for football royalty.
He is too young to recall the regal line of Big Red ball-carriers, but that does nothing to diminish Wednesday’s commitment.
Morrison referred to Huskers coach Scott Frost as “my guy” and Frost’s football team as an “organization.” He promised he could run in Big Ten snow if need be, and said he was fine traveling two states away to do so.
“I feel like it’s so easy to get in trouble back home,” Morrison said. “Going away isn’t gonna hurt anybody. It’s gonna do good things.”
Here we should refer back to Morrison’s “journey.”
He was born and raised in north Tulsa where, he acknowledged Wednesday, some friends sank into the streets. What protected him is more a matter of “who.”
“I’d get in some trouble here or there,” Morrison said, “but my granny kept me on the right path.”
“We had challenges just like with any kid,” said Donna Wilson, the granny who sat next to Morrison at Wednesday’s ceremony. “Just had to pull that shirttail and get him back on track.”
Football helped, too. Morrison started as a second-grader with the north side’s Tulsa Youth Athletic Association.
“Just the talent he had, his discipline, his will to play, it was unique even at that age,” said Orlando Douglas, Morrison’s first coach.
Morrison realized that talent at Academy Central, then KIPP Middle School and on through his junior year at Edison.
En route to torching Tillman’s single-season rushing record — he would finish 2018 with 2,728 yards — Morrison was on a bus trip to Durant on Oct. 26 when the Eagles stopped at McDonald’s. Daniels’ phone rang. It was Ryan Held, once a small-college football coach in Oklahoma who has moved up the ranks to coach Nebraska running backs.
Held has a grad assistant from Tonkawa named Colby Ellis. When Ellis spotted Morrison, it didn’t take much for Held to become familiar.
Now Held was ready to offer the Eagle a scholarship.
“I got goosebumps on my arms,” Daniels said. “I told Sevion,‘C’mere, c’mere, c’mere. I’ve got something to tell ya.’ ”
So this was Morrison’s first offer from a Power 5 program?
“That was my first offer. Any offer,” he clarified Wednesday.
How significant was this?
“I was telling my friends, ‘I’m fixin’ to stop, man,’ ” Morrison said.
You mean stop playing ball?
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s how frustrated I was getting without having any offers or no attention. It was like that.”
Daniels and Douglas assured Morrison there was a time and place if he would keep grinding.
“My friends would tell me, ‘Don’t give up, bro, your time is coming,’ ” Morrison said. “‘Your time is coming. Your time is coming. Your time is coming.’ Eventually it came.”
Those friends were at Morrison’s side in the auditorium Wednesday. So, yeah, a pretty cool first day of school.
With so many sweet days seemingly ahead.
“I’ve gotta give all glory to God,” Morrison said. “From zero offers to now I’m sitting at about 24. They were calling me the most-kept secret in Oklahoma. I feel like we got a little attention.
“Now I feel like there’s more to come.”