What brings an assistant football coach with four Pac-12 schools on his resume to Weber State?
A busted hip and a lucky break.
Steve Morton was Washington State's offensive line coach last year; Jody Sears was the Cougars' defensive coordinator. When head coach Paul Wulff and his staff were fired, Sears found work first as Weber State's defensive coordinator on John L. Smith's staff, then stepped in as Smith's replacement when he suddenly departed in April.
Meanwhile, back in January, Morton had been laid up with a hip replacement, right while everyone else in the college coaching profession was engaged in the annual carousel of hunting for work. So Morton settled into a position doing alumni fundraising at Washington State, expecting to sit out a year from coaching until Sears called recently because O-line coach Cecil Thomas took the head coaching job at Granger High School.
Even then, Morton, who has also coached at USC, Washington, Stanford, Iowa State, Nevada and San Jose State, wasn't sure he could make the transition from one WSU to another WSU work.
"You know, the guy that did sawed the bones off, did the body and fender work, I'd like to have him see me the rest of the way through,"
Morton recommended some others, but Sears called back and asked him to reconsider.
"Quite frankly, I'm delighted it worked out, because this is my 38th season: Working for full-grown adults, with full-grown adults, on a full-time basis, is highly overrated," he jokes. "The opportunity to take young people from diverse backgrounds and bring them together for a common good and try to get something out of them, it's stimulating, it's motivating and it's awesome. On top of that, I love the thrill of trying to get a plan together, guys come together and try to go win a football game. Then we've got one down and, who's next?"
Morton says he is blessed to be here and is enthusiastic about coaching the Weber State Wildcats in Ogden, Utah, even if he never expected to be here.
"From where I thought I was going to be three weeks ago to where I am now," he said, "this is like a free pass to Disneyland."
Sears has known Morton most of his life.
"When I was growing up, he was coaching at Washington State with Jim Walden. That was back in the '80s," he said. "He recruited my brother, "To bring a coach with his expertise, his knowledge, his experience, is awesome for the (coaching staff). We feel extremely blessed to have him."
Sears and Morton each played at Washington State, several years apart, and both got their first coaching jobs from Walden.
Sears told his offensive linemen they were in for some upper level coursework under Morton's tutelage.
"I told them, you're going to get your bachelor's and your masters here in about four months on the O-line," he said.
Professor Morton takes over a group of students who have a lot to prove.
Starting offensive tackles J.C. Oram and Caleb Turner moved on with graduation and starting guard Jiniki Timoteo is no longer on the roster.
Senior Tytan Timoteo, who has started 30 games for the Wildcats over the past three years and is an all-Big Sky second teamer last season, is expected to be an anchor on an inexperienced line. Junior Tyson Tiatia, who is a two-time all-conference honorable mention at center, is also back, but the line will likely feature several underclassmen.
Ged Carrington is the only other senior lineman besides Tytan Timoteo. Sophomore tackle Shelton Robinson and guards Austin Butler and Alex Land are expected to contribute. Sophomore Cash Knight, who worked out at defensive tackle in the spring, is again listed with the O-linemen, and there are six freshmen listed who have an opportunity to challenge for playing time.
"Anytime you lose an All-American (like Oram), that's going to be a question mark," Sears said. "Those are huge shoes to fill."
Morton has the challenge of jumping into a job with only weeks before the Weber State season starts Feb. 1 at Fresno State, relying on his experience while learning the terminology of Weber State's system.
"Really and truly, in some aspects of it, I feel like I'm the fifth-grade history substitute teacher, I've just got to stay one day ahead of the class and I'll be all right. I can fake the rest of it."
* THREE BIG SKY TEAMS IN TSN POLL: Montana State is ranked fourth in the preseason Football Championship Subdivision poll of sports information directors and media members compiled by The Sports Network.
Sam Houston State, which beat Montana State in the quarterfinals and Montana in the semifinals, is ranked first, followed by defending national champion North Dakota State.
Georgia Southern is ranked third, followed by Montana State and James Madison.
Montana is ranked 11th followed by Eastern Washington in 12th.