Athletics opened a door of opportunity for Jim Bob Morris that may not have existed for a young man from small town Virgil, Kansas. Today, Mr. Morris is opening doors for future Coffeyville Community College students by leading the charge with a sizeable gift for momentous renovations and expansion of the Dick Foster Athletic Complex.
“I think the key element, is that I look at Coffeyville as being a very inspirational and developing part of who I am today,” Morris said. “Coming from a very small town (population 68), and very small high school with only 11 students in my graduating class, CCJC offered and provided me an array of new perspectives of what I could accomplish and certainly made available opportunities that I dreamed about, but not sure how I was going to get there.”
Originally, Coffeyville’s basketball coach at the time, Gene Duke, was recruiting Morris to play for the Ravens. Football Coach Dick Foster was not actively recruiting Morris because he had played eight-man football in high school. Duke met with Foster and shared that if Morris was not going to play football, along with basketball, he was going to sign with a different community college. Coach Foster agreed to bring Morris in as part of the team and called to discuss it with him. When Foster reached Morris, he learned that Morris had just signed and placed his letter-of-intent for the other college in the mail. Luckily, it was a holiday so the post office was not open. Foster asked Morris if he knew anyone at the post office that could retrieve the letter. Morris said he was good friends with the Postmaster and that he would give her a call. Long story short, the letter was never mailed and the rest is history.
Morris earned all-state honors in football, basketball and track while attending Hamilton High School in Virgil, Kansas. He received a basketball scholarship to Coffeyville Community Junior College in 1978. While attending CCJC, Morris played football, was a triple jumper for the track team, and was elected to serve as student body president. The football team went 10-1 and ended the season as Coca-Cola Bowl Champions defeating number one ranked Iowa Central. The basketball team made it to the NJCAA National Championship Tournament with Morris as guard, and he placed 4th as a triple jumper in the NJCAA National Track Championship. Morris was selected to the 1979 Jayhawk All-Conference Team for football and was a NJCAA All-American in football and track. In 1980, he accepted a scholarship to play football at Kansas State University. Morris earned All Big-Eight honors as a safety and helped lead K-State to their first bowl appearance in 1982.
Morris tried out as a free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs after his time at K-State. He played in the United States Football League prior to signing with the Green Bay Packers in 1987 where he led the team and league in interception return yardage. In 1989, Morris became a member of the Houston Oilers and officially retired from football in 1990. At the conclusion of his football career, Morris put his education to work. He is the owner and president of several food packaging and ingredients companies, including Morris Packaging.
“As I have said before, being on welfare as a young boy, losing my parents at an early age, and being taken in by relatives, the future could have been bleak and I certainly did not have a lot of promising prospects,” said Morris. “Coach Foster and Coach Gene Duke both gave me a shot.”
What started as an athletic complex for football 20 years ago, the Dick Foster Athletic Complex has been utilized by thousands of students from a variety of athletic programs offered at CCC. Coffeyville Community College athletics have been the starting point for 58 NFL players, 1 NBA player, 1 Olympian, 323 athletic NJCAA All-Americans, 349 academic NJCAA award recipients with 154 of those distinguished.
“Everyone has done a good job of keeping it up, but it is 20 years old and needs updated to stay competitive with other institutions,” said Coach Foster. “To see what these guys have done with their lives and want to give back to the college is important. Jim Bob wants to help people. What is being done at the complex is not just going to help athletes, it is going to help the institution.”
Coffeyville Community College is extremely appreciative of Mr. Morris’ generosity to jumpstart this $1.2 million initiative. As an institution of education and opportunity, it is rewarding to witness former students succeed, and be willing to share opportunities of success with future students.