Sun sets on a warrior

Chris Morris offers a smile made sunny by a Grey Cup championship as he announces his retirement...

Chris Morris offers a smile made sunny by a Grey Cup championship as he announces his retirement from the Eskimos offensive line Thursday, May 18, 2006. (Sun Media/David Bloom)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Through 14 years with the Edmonton Eskimos, Chris Morris played through pain that would have left some men in bed.

But when the Green and Gold start training camp on Sunday morning, Morris will not drag his hulking frame back on the field for another season. The gutsy, determined offensive lineman officially retired yesterday.

"I am a 38-year-old man this year and it's time for a young guy to play," he said. There's more to his decision than the numbers on his birth certificate and the fact his body can no longer sustain a full 18-game regular-season.

His professional life off the field is reaching new heights - and it's the right time to say goodbye.

"I have an opportunity to step into an assistant principal job at M.E. LaZerte (high school)," he continued.

"It's an ideal scenario, so why am I going to try to stretch one more year out of football when what I want to do for the rest of my life is sitting in front of me?"

The club's first-round draft pick in 1992 leaves the game with an impressive resume, which includes playing in 257 games and winning three Grey Cup rings.

LEAVING ON A HIGH NOTE

And he leaves on a high note - winning a championship last fall after being criticized and singled out in the second half of the season for the offensive line's struggles.

"He's probably one of the most unappreciated players by the public," said his longtime O-line coach Bill Macdermott. "The people who knew he could play were the people on his side and the people he played against."

The Ontario native also leaves the game as one of the toughest players to ever wear an Eskimo jersey.

"He really was the ultimate warrior," said head coach Danny Maciocia.

A ridiculously high pain tolerance level allowed him to play through countless injuries. Besides an estimated eight knee surgeries, Morris had operations on his back, an elbow and an ankle.

"If there is one incident that defines him it was two years ago when we were playing Montreal," continued Maciocia. "We go in at halftime and he's bent over, he can't even stand up straight.

"The doctors are telling me there is no way he will be able to finish the game. But he came out in the second half, didn't miss a play and we won."

Bruce Beaton - a teammate for seven years - is more blunt about Morris's pain threshold.

"Unless someone shot him in the head with a bullet from the stands, he was pretty much going to stay in the game," remarked Beaton. A father of two boys, Morris admits he won't miss carrying 290 pounds around.

But he'll miss beating his archrival to the south.

WILL MISS CALGARY RIVALRY

"I am going to miss beating teams like Calgary last year (in the playoffs) when they were just so arrogant and talking and talking," said Morris.

"To be able to shut somebody up like that is a remarkable thing. But I really am at peace with this (decision)."

Instead, Morris will watch a younger offensive line carry the torch into McMahon Stadium. With three veterans missing from last year, it will be a very different looking line, but Morris is confident.

"They're a little young and are going to learn," he said, before adding, "This is the Edmonton Eskimos - they're going to win. That's just the way it is."


Videos

Photos