Austin High School graduate Marquis Morris felt a twinge of defeat shortly after he enrolled at the U.S. Military Academy in 2008.
Morris, who was failing two courses and falling behind in others, was on the verge of losing his scholarship only six weeks after starting his freshman year at the school.
The West Point senior and Decatur native admitted Monday that he considered leaving the academy for another college with lighter academic requirements.
“I wanted to apply to other schools because I felt like I couldn’t make it,” he said. “I felt like I was being defeated, but that was not my mentality, so I started to get help.”
Morris, 23, spoke to students at Brookhaven Middle, Austin High, Decatur High and Cedar Ridge Middle schools Monday about his journey from Austin star linebacker to West Point cadet sergeant. He will speak with Hartselle, Priceville and Brewer students today.
Morris, a former Brookhaven student, will graduate in May as a commissioned second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and hopes to work in military intelligence following graduation.
Learning to adjust to the stringent physical and academic requirements at West Point, located about 55 miles from New York City, was the focus of Morris’ talk at Brookhaven.
Morris, who improved his grades by taking speed-reading courses, urged Brookhaven students to establish good study habits early and take advantage of school resources.
“Learn while you can now,” he said. “If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask questions in class. A lot of people are scared to ask because they’re afraid to look stupid. If you’re nervous and don’t understand something, seek advice.”
Essence Allison, an eighth-grader at Brookhaven, said Morris’ talk and question-and-answer session with students inspired her to overcome her fears about becoming an anesthesiologist.
“I’ve thought about being in the military, but I have other dreams,” she said. “I liked how even though he had troubles, he still got through them.”
Morris, who served in ROTC and as an Austin ambassador, was a three-year linebacker with dreams of landing a football scholarship, but an injury changed his plans.
Turning down football scholarships had a “huge impact” on the college senior, but he remembered attending a seminar at West Point the summer of his high school junior year, which influenced him to enroll at the academy.
Since 2008, Morris has participated lacrosse, rugby, fencing and football at West Point, while maintaining a 3.8 grade point average.
“I got pushed to my limits,” Morris told a packed auditorium of Brookhaven students. “I like to be competitive and take things to the next level. I don’t like to be mediocre, and that’s something you need to do also if you want to get out of Decatur and be successful.”
Jessie Brinkley, a sixth-grade social studies teacher, recalls Morris as quiet, but eager to understand the world during his days at Brookhaven.
“I remember him always wanting to learn more,” she said.
“He was so well-behaved in class and took everything very seriously. He was a hard worker and always focused on his learning.”
Brookhaven eighth-grader Myra Pruitt said Morris’ presentation reminded her to seek help from teachers, friends and family as she pushes to achieve her goals.
“He actually talked about his experience through school and how it is at West Point,” she said. “Even though he fell down in school, he got back up.”
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