By Alex Norman
The time Morgan Cox spent with the Vols was perhaps the most diverse period in program history.
During the three seasons Cox was the starting long snapper for Tennessee, the Vols were one quarter away from an SEC championship (2007), then they fired Phillip Fulmer (2008), and that was followed by Lane Kiffin’s one year in Knoxville (2009).
“It was interesting,” said Cox. “Losing the SEC was tough, then next year losing Coach Fulmer. Kiffin brought energy to the program and I liked playing for him. It was fun but hard when he left. It was a difficult transition when Coach (Derek) Dooley was hired.”
Cox added, “I’m excited to see what Coach (Butch) Jones can do. I still keep up with them. I stay in touch with long snapper J.R Carr, and my brother (Wright) goes to Tennessee.”
In addition to being a three year starter, Cox was Academic All-SEC from 2006 to 2009. In 2010, Cox wasn’t picked in the National Football League Draft. But on Sunday, he’ll play in the Super Bowl. Cox is the long snapper for the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens.
“Other teams contacted me (in 2010), but I felt like Baltimore was the best situation for me,” said Cox, who would sign with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent, and win the job in training camp. “From day one I just wanted to be consistent. Even if Baltimore wasn’t the place, I knew I could find a home somewhere.”
Cox proved his worth during that rookie season, staring the first 15 games. But in that 15th game Cox tore the ACL in his left knee during the first half against Cleveland. So what did Cox do?
He kept playing.
“It was an adrenaline thing. You don’t have 900 pounds of lineman fall on your knee and not know something is wrong,” said Cox. “At halftime I put on a better brace, and figured I might as well finish the game. It was actually kind of cool though. People were congratulating me, saying they appreciated me… I just wanted to be there for my team.”
He would receive the Ed Block Courage Award from his team.
Cox started every game for the Ravens the past two seasons. This year has been special, with the Ravens peaking at the perfect time, with wins in the postseason against Indianapolis, and then on the road at Denver and New England.
“We’ve dealt with so much adversity, losing some key players, losing our leader (linebacker Ray Lewis) for most of the season,” said Cox. “His return has fired us up even more.”
Against Denver, a miracle pass play for the Ravens sent the game to overtime. Early in the second overtime, Baltimore had a chance to win it. And it came down to a field goal attempt from Justin Tucker.
For everything to go the way Baltimore wanted, it had to start with the snap. Cox’s was perfect, the hold and kick were true, and the Ravens advanced.
Life as a long snapper means you are only noticed when something goes wrong. Cox has done a good jump staying out of the spotlight by doing his job correctly.
“You are just reacting. That’s not a sexy answer, but it keeps us sane,” said Cox. “We practice every day and go through the progressions. It helps you have a clear head. You do something so many times, after you deliver the football I take a peek for a split second to see it going in the general direction (of the holder). ”
Is there a nervous energy? Or fear? Cox says no.
“You can’t let yourself feel that. You trust in your training, do it enough times that your body could do it on its own. You have to come through mentally.”
Super Bowls have been won and lost on kicks in the final seconds. So it is possible that Cox will be involved in a historic moment in football history. The game will be here soon. Cox just wants to enjoy the moment.
“For me as a specialist, I will soak it all in. I want to treat it like any other game and do my job,” said Cox. “If we play our game, we are very capable in all areas… offense, defense and special teams. I know we have ability and I know we will play our best.”