A story worthy of a king’s crown
Written by Christina Abay on April 7, 2022
Houston, TX— He spoke with remarkable assurance, composure, and conviction as he reflected on pivotal moments, character-building challenges, and life lessons that formed him into today’s man.
On one occasion, the session turned more conversational as senior Montgomery Morris expressed his parents’ philosophy of challenging society’s views of what it means to be a student-athlete throughout his high school years.
Extensively engaged in his high school’s Business Professionals of America chapter while simultaneously guiding the Cedar Hill Longhorns to the playoffs in 2018— Morris was always aware that he was more than just a talented athlete.
In reflection, like another king, the reigning Mr. Texas Southern University cited 4x NBA Champion LeBron James’ “More Than an Athlete” campaign and off-court achievements as sources of encouragement during his playing career.
When combined with his parents’ ethos, Morris realized he wanted to be recognized as someone capable of making a substantial difference in people’s lives.
“My ultimate goal is to try to inspire and be relatable to everybody that I come in contact with,” Morris said.
When he is not bowling strikes at the local bowling alley, Morris gives back to the community by volunteering at local food banks and participating in clothing drives throughout the holiday season.
Born in Beaumont, Texas, he spent most of his formative years in Dallas, graduating from Cedar Hill High School in 2018, before relocating to Houston to attend Texas Southern University.
While the interview was conducted over Zoom, it was impossible to miss the gleam in his eyes as he described who planted the seed of his intention to attend TSU.
Morris attributes his ambition to attend a historically Black college or university, as well as several life lessons, to his mother’s influence. During her academic years at Wiley College, he remembers instances when she would bring him to homecoming or return to campus or the “yard.”
Her positive energy and unwavering support served as a significant source of encouragement throughout his life, mainly through the difficult transition from varsity to junior varsity during his junior year of high school.
A temporary adjustment that placed him in a unique position, he quickly adapted to and helped mold Morris into the blossoming leader he is today.
“Because I was a player from varsity on the JV squad, everybody is looking up to me,” Morris explained. “That’s really how I got my passion for leadership— because I was able to be a leader.”
He added, “A lot of the people [on the team] were in the same class as me or younger classes than me.”
Highlighting that point in his life as a genuine breakthrough moment, Morris “fully” emerged into the leadership position, pushing himself and his peers to become the most excellent version of themselves.
“I showed them hard work and effort is what you can control,” said Morris.Montgomery Morris, Mr. TSU
Morris returned to varsity and was named first-team all-district newcomer of the year for the 6A district in which Cedar Hill competed—he even turned down college offers.
“I remember I picked up my first offer from a school in Kansas and threw out that once I saw that,” reflected Morris. “I just, you know, wanted to keep translating that to the court.”
Morris’s victory over that personal hurdle aided him when he entered unfamiliar ground during his transition to college; the change from high school student-athlete to undergraduate was another moment of reflection.
The senior remembers his “difficult time” adapting to life without basketball during his freshman year.
“I just was trying to figure out who I was and my purpose in my life,” Morris revealed. “And what can I do to stand out amongst the rest of the people and make a name for myself and leave a legacy.”
Morris grew increasingly engaged on campus with the support of a group of upperclassmen who became lifetime friends, joining various groups and organizations and ultimately capitalizing on the essential mentoring and encouragement afforded by the HBCU campus.
Notably, Morris acknowledges Yvette Barker, Ernest Brian, and David Anderson as the three primary persons “integral” in his integration on campus and eventual breaking out of his shell.
Marcus Nash and Adonis Warren, both of whom are now TSU alumni, Morris recalls, were always on his case about his future and the potential he held, which was not always clear to Morris himself.
However, his mother served as the perpetually charged battery that made all the difficulties and tribulations Morris endured tolerable. Referring to her as his “best friend,” she never wavered from her initial instruction, to be more than an athlete.
“She would always, you know, stay on top of me about my grades and making honor roll and doing things of that nature.”
Morris discloses that one of her lessons has stayed with him over the years, eventually forming his perspective on fulfilling duties.
While he recognized the phrase’s popular superhero pattern, “With great power comes great responsibility,” it was something his mother often preached to prepare him for whatever he undertakes, together with the message that no one can stop him but himself.
Thus, it came as no surprise to those in his camp when Nike’s Roadrunner campaign, which attempts to strengthen Nike’s partnerships with historically black schools and institutions, recognized Morris’s achievements.
In addition, the class of 2021 recognized former HBCU student-athletes who had advanced their careers in health, science, technology, and entertainment.
Morris first doubted his selection, describing it as a “great honor” since he grew up as a massive admirer of the company. Nonetheless, he quickly saw that his incredible opportunity as a “yardrunner” had been earned via his earlier diligence and perseverance.
Morris, who is expected to graduate this year with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management, emphasized the importance of developing a system that works for him to balance life’s obligations and his mental health, citing his time serving on Cedar Hill’s mayor’s team council as a teachable moment in time management.
“I have a whiteboard that I write out and make it like a checklist,” He explained. “And so that helps me throughout the year and throughout the semester or through the days and weeks— just by writing out the things that I have to accomplish in those weeks and in that short period of time and just living by a schedule.”
The promising sports agent sees a future in which he has his own firm, similar to Rich Paul’s Klutch Sports, and is able to improve the lives of those who have supported him.
Although basketball is and will always be his first love, he intends to expand out into other leagues and carve himself a career as a jack of all trades in an ever-changing business.
Morris hopes to leave a lasting impression on his TSU peers and everyone else with whom he comes into touch through his relatability, honesty, and charisma, envisioning a legacy that inspires people to strive for excellence.
“I’m a student, might come from a similar background,” said Morris. “I just try to be relatable in all aspects around the board.