Dec. 9, 2011
BY JOHN PAINTER
If you happen to notice a football team's deep snapper, he's probably having a bad day. Or you're related to him by blood or marriage.
Just picture a spiraling football sailing over a punter's head or a field goal being blocked by a straight-ahead rusher, and it's easy to see why deep snappers prefer to remain anonymous.
Yet former Tennessee Vol Morgan Cox can't seem to stay out of the news -- for all the right reasons.
Cox already has seen his share of the media limelight in just his second season with the Baltimore Ravens.
"I had one of our reporters ask if I wanted to send them some pictures from my wedding," Cox said of the June ceremony in Memphis. "Lauren and I were excited about our wedding and didn't mind. The photos ended up on the Baltimore Sun website.
"Then I had a couple of people say to me, `Al Michaels said your name!' It was during our game in October against the Jets on a Sunday night. It was one of those things they said in amazement, but that's about it."
The Ravens were attempting a field goal early in the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns. But unlike the hundreds of times Cox previously has handled this particular routine, things somehow went haywire.
"I remember very vividly a big pile of bodies and my knee just collapsed under the weight of three offensive and defensive linemen," Cox said. "After that, I remember getting to the sideline and being in a lot of pain.
"We had to wrap up the knee because I had to go back out there kind of quick."
Cox, despite that fact he had severe ACL and MCL tears in his left knee, stayed in the game. And players on both sides of the ball made sure no further damage came to the rookie.
"Yeah, I could hear that as it was going on," said Cox, who after the injury snapped on one more field goal and two PATs, along with a pair of punts. "(Ravens lineman) Michael Oher was basically saying across the line to `stay off the snapper.' They did to an extent, but they really didn't. They've still got to play ball, and that was understood on my part. I knew that."
Oher, an All-America lineman from Ole Miss who was made famous in the book and movie "The Blind Side," also grew up in the Memphis area and crossed paths with Cox in high school.
"I had met him and played against him plenty of times," Cox said. "We played each other once in my junior year, and we played them my senior year in the regular season and then for the state championship. We knew each other pretty well because he played defensive tackle my senior year and I was playing center."
"My high school coach had two big recruits; one ended up going to Virginia and the other to Wake Forest," Cox said. "My coach has these two guys with him and walks up to Coach Fulmer to introduce them.
"Coach Fulmer sees my coach and recognizes him from ECS and asks, `Where's Morgan Cox?' My coach kind of turned around and looked at the two guys he had there and said, `Morgan Cox? I've got these two guys.' That was funny.
And where was Cox, an unrated recruit, when this chance meeting took place?
"I was on a fishing trip with my dad or I would have been there," he said with a laugh.
After lettering three seasons at Tennessee, Cox was right back in the recruiting game when he began trying to drum up interest from the NFL's 32 teams.
Making the Senior Bowl in 2010 was a great start, and Cox was able to open a few lines of communications during practice week leading up to the all-star game in Mobile, Ala.
"He helped me know what situations might be best for me," Cox said. "Through Bruce, I was somewhat familiar with Coach (Jerry) Rosburg, who now is my coach with the Ravens. Bruce told me Baltimore was a good situation and I had the potential to win the job."
Cox says it's no surprise that the expectations are so much higher in the pros than in college. His core group in Baltimore is punter Sam Koch, who is in his fifth NFL season out of Nebraska, and placekicker Billy Cundiff, playing his eighth year out of Drake. Koch also serves as holder.
"Preparation is totally different," Cox said. "The way you scout a team or the way a team scouts you is a lot different. The speed of the game, the speed of the rush, the speed of the field goal, is a lot different.
"The way that you have to be professional and really good at your job, it's the same type of pressure. If you're not doing your job, there's really no point in keeping you around."
Or putting your name in a really cool story.