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Morris Foreman
March 29, 1973 – August 18, 2005

Soft-spoken hero did his talking with his deeds

Morris Foreman (No. 7) is pictured on the move in a game during his senior season that pitted his East Carolina Pirates against the Tennessee Volunteers on Sept. 2, 1995, at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. The Pirates would go on to a 9-3 record that season, earning their second consecutive Liberty Bowl berth.

Photo: ECU Media Relations


Mo-Fo, hometown hero, dead at 32

One of East Carolina's homegrown legends, Morris Foreman, has died of an apparent heart attack. Farmville Central football coach Dixon Sauls said he learned of his former star's passing via a phone call at 1:30 a.m. on Thursday. ...  More from Al Myatt...


By Ron Cherubini

In her grief, Renée Jacobs Foreman wanted to share a story about her husband.

A few years ago, Morris and Renée found themselves in a financial crunch. Morris saw his hours being cut down sharply at Collins & Aikman and with a new house to be paid for, the short term solution was that Renée would pick up a part-time extra job to help make ends meet while Morris transitioned to a new job.

Down the street, there was a corner bar… the type where the older locals would come to grab a drink and play some pool or watch a ball game after a long day in the fields. Not keen on working in a “bar,” Renée figured that she could do anything for the short term to help make ends meet. She began working at the corner bar.

Immediately Renée recognized the patrons of the bar to be, as she said, “point blank racists.”

She never told anyone that she was married to a black man. Not because she was ashamed, but because the financial need was too great.

After some time, a few people who knew Morris from high school began frequenting the bar and before long, word had gotten out that Renée and Morris were married. Renée noticed that people started treating her differently… badly. She came home to Morris upset.

Not pleased with what he heard, Morris decided to take the issue directly to the people at that bar.

Renée can tell it best:

“Morris started coming down to the bar,” she said. “He would play pool or just sit down and watch a football game with some of the guys. Within a month, he had won those guys over. Morris had just a peaceful spirit. Those men who used to use the “N” word and would not accept biracial relationships, changed. These same men started hugging me and shaking Morris's hand and buying him drinks.

“He didn’t go in there with an attitude that he was a big man and was going to (beat them up). Instead he changed the lives of 40-50 people — people from a different era — by helping them change how they think about racism. Morris changed their whole way of thinking, not through force, but through the power of his spirit.”

As Renée tells the story, the pain of losing her husband, former Pirate standout football player Morris Foreman, is still fresh. But she wants to talk about him. She needs to talk about him and she says that the story she told really illustrates the man the Pirate Nation so sadly lost on Thursday.

Foreman, or Mo-Fo, as he was endearingly called by his teammates and fans during his four years as a star defensive player from 1992-95, was that kind of guy. The Pirate who sported No. 7 on the field for East Carolina, was known as much for his unyielding loyalty and support for his friends, family and teammates off the field as he was for his amazing play on the field.

A Bell Weather Recruit

In the years following the 1991 Peach Bowl victory, the East Carolina Pirates sought to parlay that big win into a formula to attract the type of players necessary to sustain success at that level. In the recent history leading up to the Peach Bowl, ECU had struggled in head-to-head recruiting against the in-state ACC schools.

But, in 1992, there was a breakthrough and it was marked by the signing of Foreman, a much-sought-after star option quarterback out of Farmville Central High School who had spent a year of prep school at Fork Union Military Academy.

It had been a long time since the Pirates had signed a player as highly recruited as Foreman and it was Foreman’s decision to stay “home” with the Pirates that changed the landscape for ECU in terms of modern day recruiting in the big-budget, flash and glitz era. In picking the Pirates, he turned away both the University of UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State and Michigan, among others.

For then-head coach Steve Logan, who was very vocal about what that signing meant to the ECU program, Foreman represented a monumental step forward for the Pirates. His signing validated for many athletes in eastern North Carolina that ECU was a school of choice, not an afterthought.

“He was the first guy that decided that staying home was okay,” Logan told Bonesville. “It seemed to give a blessing to a bunch of other kids in the area. He was the first highly-recruited eastern North Carolina kid (during Logan's tenure) to break the stranglehold (of N.C. State and UNC-CH) and it helped us build some sustained success. He made an impact... and it helped that he was a real good player.”

So good was Foreman that as a true freshman, he supplanted pre-season Jim Thorpe Award candidate Greg Grandison in the starting lineup at strong safety. He went on to play in all 11 games that season and he also returned kicks for the Pirates. By his sophomore season, Foreman had solidified his hold on a starting position. He absolutely starred in his final two seasons, playing linebacker for the Pirates and returning kicks. In total, he piled up 255 career tackles, including 131 solos. He added 7 career INT's and as a junior was 15th in the nation in punt returns (10.4 yards per return).

Following football, Foreman had worked for years at Collins & Aikman before recently taking a position at Craven County Correctional Institute near Vanceboro. It made sense, given how much Foreman loved helping people.

A magnetic individual, Morris quickly became a fan favorite at East Carolina both for his ferociousness on the field and his warm and open persona off the field. He was known for the big play and an exuberance on the field that fans could see lift the team when it needed it.

At the prison, he had the substance of character not only do his job professionally, but also to be one of a few guards who treated the inmates like human beings.

“He loved the correctional facility,” Renée said. “Morris really wanted to go back to school and finish his degree, for which he was one year short, in criminology. And, the inmates loved him because he was not judgmental. Everyone loved working with him. They knew he would treat them fair and not belittle them. Inmates have been writing me saying that they had never had a guard treat them like that.”

There was so much more to MoFo than ECU football. There was the man who used to host PlayStation tournaments at his house. The winner received a makeshift championship belt, compliments of Foreman. He was the man who patiently would sit with daughter Keely Morning for hours while the child, with ADHD, would work through a single sentence.

“Morris was on homework patrol because he had so much more patience than I did,” Renée said. “He wanted to be sure she understood.”

His personality was such that to this day, players who played with MoFo, will tell you that he was a leader.

One teammate, Pete Zophy, remembered him this way:

“I consider Morris the 'ultimate teammate,' ” Zophy said. “He was an incredible team leader both on and off the field and just a super, super person. Seeing some of the things he did on the field, I remember thinking, ‘Thank God I'm on Mo's team,’ versus ever having to play against him somewhere. He always had everybody’s back. The NFL missed out on him big-time, that’s a fact. I miss him.”

Foreman is survived by his wife Renée and four children, Demetrius (14), Tori (12), Anthony (13), and Keely (9). The eldest, Demetrius, currently is playing football for the Farmville Jauguars — just like dad and for the same coach, Dixon Sauls. Sauls has retired the No. 7 jersey in honor of Foreman.

“Morris had finally gotten his schedule to where he was able to get to more of Farmville and ECU’s football games,” Renée said. “He was so looking forward to both. We were a football family.”

In his career, Mo-Fo became synonymous for the “big play” or the play that sparked the team’s emotion, but more than even that, his teammates are better for simply knowing him.

“He was a good boy,” Logan told Bonesville. “He was very quiet, but on the field and around the locker room he had a way of getting people to follow him. He was a big, big deal for the program and his four years were very productive for him personally and for the team collectively. He was a good kid.

MoFo was once asked, “How would you like others to perceive you?”

He answered: “A good person, someone who people would like for their child to be like.”

That was the Morris Foreman that ECU fans knew and loved.

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Page updated: 02/23/07 02:06 PM


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