Buried deep beneath the atmosphere of negativity and bad press of CSU’s 1-5 season is a feel-good story of brotherly love so pure it could only come from two players who share the same birthday.
Three years ago wide receivers Damon and Dion Morton, twin brothers from Riverside, Calif., accepted full-ride athletic scholarships to play football at CSU for one main reason: to play together on the same field for the same team- just as they had since they were 4 years old.
Damon, an inch and a half taller and 15 pounds heavier, had offers to play for better programs that were closer to home coming off an illustrious high school career. But when none of those schools offered Dion the chance to play too, Damon made a sacrifice and committed to a less prestigious program hundreds of miles from home. Dion sacrificed too, spending his first year at CSU converting from a record-setting high school quarterback to a wide receiver, a position he had never played.
Now in his second full season as a starter, Damon continues to be a difference maker for the Rams. Once again, No. 87 leads his team in receptions (23), receiving yards (503) and touchdowns (5).
CSU wider receivers coach Marc Lubick says Damon will have a “good shot” at playing professionally. However, the Rams have lost 12 more games than they’ve won while Damon has played for them.
But Damon wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I don’t think that he regrets playing with his brother at all,” says Donovan Morton, the twins’ older brother, who has traveled two hours south from his home in southern California just to watch his two brothers play on television. “I guess you can say that everything happens for a reason.”
Losing aside, Damon is enjoying this season more than any other at CSU because after three years, he is finally getting to play along side his “little brother.”
“We definitely get excited when we’re on the field together,” said Damon. “It’s just great to see your brother, let alone your twin, do well. You couldn’t ask for more.”
After joining the program in spring of 2004, redshirting in 2005 and playing sparingly in 2006, Dion has played in every game this season. Dion scored his first career touchdown in week 3 at Houston and is among the conference leaders in kick return yardage (26.8).
The bond the Morton brothers share is never more apparent than on a CSU kickoff return, with Damon often leading Dion from the opponent’s goal line toward a wall of 11 defenders running full speed, trying to decapitate Dion.
“You can tell if they’re blocking for each other,” says Marc Lubick. “They make sure they do all they can for the other one.”
Not your average football player(s)
The image and personality of a college football player conjure up a common stereotype of a tall and muscular, often cocky athlete with more time to party than for class. Throw every one of those commonly misrepresented characteristics away and you’ve got a decent start in understanding Dion and Damon Morton.
Neither twin is taller than six feet and neither weighs more than 180 pounds.
Without their God-given ability to run around defenders with the moves of a digital video game player, the Mortons would likely be playing baseball or basketball because, for football, they’d simply be too small. But, fortunately, you can’t teach speed. Damon is the fastest of all the Rams and can run 40 yards in less than 4 / seconds. Dion is just a hair slower, but claims to be “quicker and more agile.”
Even with a lifetime of athletic success, the Mortons possess an ego even smaller than their stature. Defeat after defeat, the twins maintain a positive attitude that makes them almost impossible to dislike. They are soft-spoken but not shy. They are incredibly family-oriented and attend church every Sunday. They share the same favorite color, television shows and movies. They smile more than they frown and their hair is cropped in the same clean, short fade. Although fraternal, they look more like identical twins from a stranger’s eye.
But those close enough to the twins have no trouble distinguishing the two.
“Dion’s got that serious look, a sneaky look- like he’s always thinking about something,” said teammate Mike Pagnotta after a recent practice, interrupting Dion as he tried to explain their facial differences.
In personality, Dion is “more feisty and serious” while Damon is the “laid back jokester”, according to brother Donovan. Nine years their elder, Donovan Morton knows the twins perhaps better than anyone.
The 30-year-old high school football coach calls the twins before each game with words of encouragement and his own scouting report of that day’s opponents. Donovan tells his younger brothers which defenders could be “picked on” and what they need to improve on from last game, frequently giving a harsher critique than any member of the Rams’ coaching staff.
“They look up to Donovan more than a lot of people,” says Donovan’s wife and the twins’ sister-in-law, Shante Morton. “He’s always been there for them.”
Growing up, Donovan says he “partied enough for the both of them.” College life hasn’t changed them much, either. If the Rams get their first home win in more than a year Saturday against Utah, don’t expect the twins to spend the night out and about celebrating. Any free time they have is spent inside an apartment the two share together.
“I’d lay down and watch TV all day if I could,” said Dion.
Even on the road, the twins share a hotel room. Left alone, they will “do the most random stuff,” with one providing a rhythmic beat while the other sings and dances. But with Damon, a senior, running out of eligibility each week, things will be different come fall of 2008. For the first time in 17 years, the Morton brothers will not be part of the same team.
Fortunately for Dion, Damon and the rest of the CSU football team, four games remain this season- four more chances for the twins to soak up every last minute of playing time together.
“That’s something we don’t really talk about,” said Donovon. “.It’s great (to see them playing together), I just wish it would’ve happened sooner.”