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Alfred Morris scores a touchdown against Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.

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Fred-hot spotlight

Analysis: The new face of Florida Atlantic University will be carrying the identity of the school along with the football when Alfred Morris and the Washington Redskins play the Seattle Seahawks today in a nationally televised NFL playoff game. FAU couldn't ask for a better situation.

Originally published on 1/5/2013

by Chuck King

Think you are Alfred Morris' biggest fan?

You've got competition.

"I almost feel like his stalker," FAU President Mary Jane Saunders said. "I Google him every morning to see what articles are written about him."

Saunders walked around the arena when FAU basketball defeated Louisiana-Lafayette on Thursday wanting to relive Alfred Morris'  200-yard, three touchdown night against Dallas four nights earlier.

She has good reason to be elated. FAU is beyond fortunate.

In four months Alfred Morris has gone from the running back no one had heard of to becoming the face of FAU. Saunders couldn't have hand-picked a better figurehead.

For all his accomplishments on the field - Morris broke Washington's single-season rushing record , finished second in the NFL rushing yards this season and delivered the third best rushing season by an NFL rookie in the history of the league - Morris is even more impressive off the field.

First the Washington media, then the national media learned what FAU fans already knew - Morris is genuine.  He's the real deal. He's worth rooting for.

When Googling Morris, Saunders constantly comes across articles detailing the former Owls' charitable work, time spent with youth groups and his near shocking lack of ego. Heck, judging by the number of articles about his car, Morris' 1991 Mazda that he bought as a student may be FAU's second most well-known product.

"Alfred is such a low-key, don't do as I say, do as I act kind of person. That appeals to people so well," said former FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger, Morris' coach who up until a couple months ago was widely considered the face of FAU.

Yep, FAU is, to choose a word Morris frequently utters when describing his situation, blessed. Truth be told, former Owls Rusty Smith, Rob Housler and Lestar Jean, all currently in the NFL, are all good people. FAU administrators don't have many sleepless nights worrying that one of those former players will do something to tarnish the school's image. The Owls have sent men of character into the NFL.

But Alfred is Alfred.

Case in point, Morris traded texts with FAU Athletic Director Pat Chun on Thursday. Chun didn't even become the FAU AD until after Morris had already graduated. They've only talked in person a handful of times.

"I shot him a 'good luck in the playoffs' text and he responded right away - typical Alfred," said Chun, who favorably compares Morris' demeanor to two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin , the man Ohio State administrators point to as being the ideal student-athlete.

"We are going to have out there representing FAU a guy who is a Top 5 running back in the NFL, one of the best in his position in the entire world, and, oh my gosh, he's a better person than that. That right there is the most important thing for us at FAU."

While Morris is busy making FAU look good to the outside world, Chun says Morris also makes it easy to get the Owls' message across to current athletes.

"It allows us to go to all 500 student athletes and just point to Alfred and say, 'That's how you are supposed to be,'" Chun said.

It's somewhat ironic that Morris doesn't seek the spotlight, yet has spent the past couple weekends trending on Twitter.

FAU will get another shot of free PR later today when Morris and the Redskins open the playoffs at home against Seattle. Expect Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to rehash stories we already know about Morris but still enjoy hearing over and over again.

"It's authentic. It's who he is. It's not something that he made up for the media. I am so happy for him," Saunders said. "It's wonderful for the school but knowing him as  a person I'm mostly happy for him."

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