The dog days of the offseason are finally behind us now that training camp is underway, just in time for our countdown of the Top 100 Chicago Bears of all time to really heat up. As we get closer to the season opener, we get closer to naming the #1 Chicago Bear of all time.
Next on our top 100 list is Johnny Morris. My only memories of Morris are from his work as a sportscaster for WBBM Chicago, but it turns out he was one of the Bears best wide receivers of all-time. The Bears drafted Morris in the 12th round of the 1958 NFL draft. He was a star RB/KR at the University of California and also tied the world record in the 50-yard dash as part of the track team. Morris started his Bears career as a halfback (& kick returner) but the Bears moved him to wide receiver in 1961.
Morris had some success as a running back in 1960 (5.7 ypc, 417 yards, 3 TDs) but had much better statistics once he switched to receiver. He got off to a slow start his first year after the position change (36, 548, 4) but then led the Bears in catches in 3 of the next 4 seasons between ’62-’65. Morris lined up next to TE Mike Ditka and those two combined to lead the Bears offense to a NFL Championship in 1963. Morris had his best season in ’64 with 93 catches for 1,200 yards and 10 TDs, all three of which led the league. His 93 catches held up as a Bears record until 2001 (37 years!) when Marty Booker broke it with 100 receptions and his receiving yards were a record until Jeff Graham broke it with 1,301 yards in 1995 (31 years!). Morris led the team in receptions and yardage again in ’65 with 53 catches for 846 yards and 4 TDs.
Starting in ’66 the Bears transitioned to a run-heavy offense behind star halfback Gale Sayers and no receiver had more than 32 catches (Ditka). Morris was gradually fazed out of the offense and retired after the ’67 season. He spent his entire 10 year career with the Bears amassing 356 catches, 5,059 yards, and 31 TDs. His 5,059 career receiving yards are #1 in Bears history and his reception total is #2 behind Walter Payton (492). After his football career ended, Morris worked for WBBM in Chicago as a sportscaster until 1996.
What do you think of the ranking? Too high? Too low? I guess you’ll have to check back to see who finished ahead of him to judge for yourself. We’ll be counting down a different person each day as we inch our way to the September 7th season opener.