Their friendship is now one of super proportions.
The spring of his senior year at Nampa High School in Idaho, Rob Morris traveled to Provo to see his future college football team play its annual spring game. Standing along the sidelines was another Cougar recruit, John Tait from Phoenix. It was that day the future roommates met one another for the first time. A dozen years later, they square off against one another in Super Bowl XLI in Miami on Feb. 4.
"It's kind of crazy, isn't it?" Morris said.
Morris, a starting outside linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts, will try to shake off blocks from Tait, a Chicago Bears offensive tackle, on football's biggest stage.
Last Sunday, they used text messages to wish one another good luck before their respective teams went out and won the NFC and AFC championships.
That day, Tait messaged Morris that he had a strong feeling they would end up together in Miami playing in the Super Bowl.
"I've talked to him almost every day," Morris said. "It's a big thrill for both of us."
It is especially nuts when you consider the Colts moved Morris from the middle linebacker spot to the outside several weeks ago, helping the Indianapolis defense make a postseason surge. That change in position, done just four days before a game when the Colts lost Gilbert Gardner to injury, will now place Morris directly in physical competition with his longtime friend.
"I guess the stars have aligned," said Morris, who hopes to shake off a sore knee and resume his starting spot for the big game.
Tait and Morris were assigned to be roommates in the BYU dorms their freshman seasons as Cougars. They later moved into the Enclave Apartments in Provo and continued to be roomies until Morris married. Morris asked Tait to join his younger brother Travis and serve as best men at his wedding. When Tait married after college, while a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Morris was at his wedding but not as best man.
"I got to put a little flower on my suit," Morris said.
"They've always been very close friends, and they've been through it all together," former BYU recruiting coordinator Chris Pella said.
Morris is considered one of the best linebackers to ever play at BYU. His abilities rank with other former Cougar linebackers to play in Super Bowls Todd Shell (49ers) and Kurt Goveia (Redskins). A semifinalist for the Butkus Award in 1999, he was named first-team all-American by the Associated Press and a first-round draft pick by the Colts, 28th overall.
Tait, a giant 6-foot-6, 315-pound offensive lineman, entered the NFL draft after his junior year at BYU in 1998 and was the No. 14 overall pick by Kansas City. The Chiefs traded him to the Bears in 2004, where the former first-round pick signed a six-year, $34 million deal. In 2004, he was the second-highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL, making $13.1 million for that first season.
Since Sunday, both players have received phone calls from two former Cougars who have played in Super Bowls, Chris Hoke (Pittsburg Steelers) and former Philadelphia Eagle Chad Lewis.
"They're all excited for us, just like we were excited for them when they played in the Super Bowl," Morris said. "It's a great feeling, and I'm sure it's a matter of pride for former BYU players to have this continue."
Since their college days, Tait and Morris have remained friends, talking to one another almost every week. They've vacationed together, including a fishing trip in the Florida Keys one offseason.
Morris remembers Tait as a roommate who was messy, he said. "It was with his clothes. He'd do laundry and then throw the clothes on the floor in a heap. They were laying around everywhere. He's a clean person, but he had clutter like you wouldn't believe. I think when he bought a house in Kansas City, he actually started to clean up. His wife has been good for him."
Tait also slept with his eyes partially open, and it would freak out Morris. "He'd be sound asleep but have his eyes opened, a little crack in both of them. He looked like he was possessed or something. "
Both served LDS missions. Tait's mission took him to Tennessee, while Morris served in Toronto.
Tait owns a house in Chicago while Morris has one in Highland and just rents an apartment in Indianapolis during the football season. Morris and his wife, Tracie, have a son, Carter, 3. Tait and his wife, Jenava, have a daughter, Vanessa.
Both Super Bowl-bound friends are undergoing the task of narrowing down their travel party lists from the many requests.
"The NFL is pretty stingy with their tickets," Morris said. "I'll have 19 people coming, mostly immediate family. Same with John. The Super Bowl is expensive. It's mainly a game for corporate sponsors."
Morris predicts his Colts will give the Bears all they want and Super Bowl XLI will be a battle to the end.
"It will be interesting," he said. "Both have well-coached teams. Our defenses are similar ... We (Colts) do more with the passing game, and they (Bears) try and run the ball down your throat.
"The team that executes what they do best will be the one that is successful."
Friendship aside, somebody's going to lose come Feb. 4 in the Super Bowl.
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