For Matt Morris, Beckley has always been home.
And after a short stint in Nashville training potential NFL stars, Morris has returned home as the strength and conditioning coach for UC-Beckley.
“We share a common interest in developing athletes,” Morris said.
The road from growing up on Mullins Street in Beckley to his new role with UC-Beckley has been an interesting one.
Morris’ father, Scott, a boxer, pushed Matt in athletics from an early age.
“He had a lot of fights when he was younger and always pushed me,” he said. “I was always hitting the heavy bag. He was also my baseball coach.”
Morris said that when he was in eighth grade at Park Junior High, he started working out and lifting weights. It’s a passion that’s stuck with him.
“My friends and teammates would call me a workout junkie,” he said with a laugh. “But it’s true. That’s where I lived. I had a great staff at Woodrow (Wilson) to help me develop.”
Morris credited Street Sarrett and John H. Lilly with helping him develop the drive that helped propel the Flying Eagle to a career at Marshall University as a wide receiver. It was there that Morris met his biggest influence, Mike Jenkins.
After graduating with a degree in exercise physiology, Morris moved to Memphis, where he worked in the Grizzlies’ strength and conditioning program, working with such stars as Pau Gasol, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay.
Now, the Beckley native is back to ensure that the student-athletes of UC-Beckley are prepared.
“We’re developing athletes in four areas: recruiting, training, building character and then sending them off to success,” Morris said. “We (Morris and UC-Beckley) mirror ourselves there. That’s what it’s all about.”
UC athletic director Bren Stevens agreed.
“Matt has been an incredible asset to the team,” she said. “He’s been like an assistant to the athletic director and really opened a lot of doors for me in Beckley, making it easier for us to get in and recruit and meet people.”
Morris also brought his substantial workout and fitness equipment from his business, Elite Sports Training, with him.
“What we do is work well together,” Morris said. “And what we’ve accomplished so far is adding an additional 4,400 square feet to the existing athletic department. We’ve made it more comprehensive by adding a cardio/core room, weights and a turf room on top of the existing athletic facilities.”
Morris also plans to offer a college-bound strength and conditioning program for area high school athletes as they prepare to enter the world of college athletics.
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Stevens seemed pleased with the current state of UC-Beckley athletics.
“It’s been great,” she said. “We were able to get our coaches out recruiting in a very short amount of time. It’s been successful.”
Stevens stated that both the men’s and women’s basketball programs and the volleyball program are taking off according to plan, but noted that the UC-Beckley soccer program has struggled.
“Our plan is to have the players we’ve recruited work out with the team in Charleston,” Stevens said of the soccer team. “We’ll bring in players from our Charleston team who may not see much time to play with them.”
Stevens also said she plans on bringing University of Charleston soccer matches to Beckley in the future.
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Stevens also said there are plans in place to bring varsity sports to the UC-Beckley campus; however, fans shouldn’t expect to see basketball, volleyball or soccer.
“We are a NCAA Division II institution,” Stevens said. “Because we have one accreditation, we’re only allowed to have varsity sports here that we do not have in Charleston.”
Stevens spoke of the possibility of bringing varsity wrestling to UC-Beckley in the future.
“That would be exciting for us,” she added.
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Stevens also said that the University of Charleston is working diligently to replace former head basketball coach Mark Downey, who resigned in July to take the position at West Alabama.
“We’ve had a lot of interest, which is nice. That means people want to coach at University of Charleston,” Stevens said. “We hope to have an announcement soon.”
Earlier this week, former Mountain State University and current East Tennessee State assistant coach Bob Bolen said he’s not a candidate for the job.
— E-mail: jrollins
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.
For Matt Morris, Beckley has always been home.
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