In his senior year in high school, Darryl Morris wasn’t getting any interest from college football programs, so he became a salesman by sending game tapes to coaches.
Then, after leaving Texas State, Morris went undrafted in 2013 and was signed by the 49ers as a free agent, was released then re-signed to the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster in late September.
So, Morris knows about fighting for what he wants.
“I’ve always been the underdog,” he said late last season. “Nothing in my situation has come easy. I know I had to work hard and I feel very blessed to be in this situation.”
Now in his second year in the NFL, Morris still doesn’t have a guaranteed spot on the 49ers roster for 2014.
The 5-foot-10, 188-pound cornerback is in the mix for a job in the secondary, battling Chris Cook, Perrish Cox and rookies Dontae Johnson and Kenneth Acker. The competition during training camp, which opens this month, should be fierce.
But Morris does have a couple of points in his favor.
For one, he’s probably the fastet player on the team. And second, he’s proven that he can make plays as a special teamer. In 13 games in kick coverage in 2013, Morris had seven tackles and a fumble recovery and impressed the coaching staff with his toughness and tackling ability.
Though he’s short on experience covering NFL receivers and has a height disadvantage against most receivers, the Niners see potential in him.
“He’s smart, he’s fast, he’s tough,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio recently told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “So he’s got some good intangibles along those ways. He just has to learn to play the position and all the nuances that go with that, which is a tall order for him coming from a small school.”
But Fangio added that Morris has “made slow but steady progress through the offseason.”
His best position might be as a nickel/slot corner, playing closer to the line of scrimmage, but rookie Jimmie Ward – the team’s top pick in May – and veteran Perrish Cox stand in his way there.
When it comes to final cuts in August, Morris’ ability to play special teams might give him an edge over the rookies, Cook and Cox.
In practices – through organized team activities and minicamp – Morris has played both corner positions and nickel and received thumbs-up reviews from coaches. But he agrees that he might best be suited for the nickel position.
“Being closer, inside, you’re around the ball a whole lot more,” he told the 49ers website. “You get to be a part of the blitz, make more tackles and a chance to make more plays. That’s where I want to be.”