Waterloo Region Record
WATERLOO — He might not bowl you over with his numbers, but when Eric Morelli takes the field at Alumni Stadium he hopes you might at least consider him a thinking man’s quarterback.
That’s not unlike the guy he has replaced.
Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks starter James Fracas, who injured his knee in a preseason match with the University of Saskatchewan, stood quietly in the shadows for years before getting his chance.
So, too, has Morelli, expected to get Monday’s start when the Hawks visit the Guelph Gryphons.
Both Fracas and Morelli are bright, level-headed fourth-year business students.
Both have gained a reputation as calm and efficient game managers and hard-working and humble leaders for the Hawks.
All of which makes the transition from one to the other silky smooth for Laurier.
Like Fracas, Morelli is not an imposing physical specimen. At five-foot-11 and 195 pounds, he won’t flatten too many tacklers.
But he just might out-think them.
“My style is balanced. I’m not purely a pocket passer. And I wouldn’t say I’m only a (scrambler) either,” Morelli, of Burlington, said this week.
“That’s the best way to keep defences off-kilter – if they don’t know what’s coming.”
Morelli passed for 258 yards, threw three touchdown passes, rushed 27 yards for another score and didn’t toss a pick in Sunday’s opener at York, a 38-21 win.
Not bad for his first career start.
“Having such a great backup like Eric means we don’t feel a lot of pressure to rush James back. Eric is doing a fine job,” said Hawks head coach Michael Faulds.
“He’s a really smart field general. He can recite our playbook as well as myself or (offensive co-ordinator Mark) Surya can.”
Morelli said doesn’t feel nervous about getting the ball again because of the playmakers Laurier has assembled around him and his reliable offensive line.
And it helps, too, that he and Surya are singing from the same song book.
“Mark and I think similarly. He’s a strategist. He likes to set things up in the way he calls plays. I think the same way. I can tell the plays that are going to be coming based on the earlier plays he’s already called.”
No matter how long he stays in the spotlight at Laurier, Morelli, 21, is fully aware there is life after football.
“For me, academics come before anything else,” said Morelli, who has already completed two marketing work terms at a telecommunications company in Waterloo Region.
“My priorities are straightforward. I can’t remember a time when I deviated from them. It’s family, school, sports, and then everything else comes after that.”
Morelli said his parents, David Morelli and Lauren More, both of whom work in public relations, have preached a strong work ethic for as long as he can remember.
“They taught me things aren’t going to be handed to you. Things won’t always go exactly the way you plan. Sometimes you have to work hard and be patient.”