By Kyle Murphy
UA Media Relations
This past Saturday, former Crimson Tide athlete Hugh Morrow returned to the Capstone to sign autographs for fans at the Crimson Tide Legends Tent on the Quad. Morrow was one of Alabama’s best athletes in the 1940s and played on the last Crimson Tide team to go to the Rose Bowl in 1946.
Morrow was a three-sport letterman at the University of Alabama. He lettered in football and baseball for four years and basketball for one year. In the 1945-46 school year he won the Hugo Freeman Trophy, which was given to the top athlete in the school.
Morrow attended Phillips High School in Birmingham. At the age of 16, he was invited to attend spring training with the Chicago Cubs but was sent home early when the organization created a rule which stated that the team couldn’t sign 16-year-olds.
Morrow was then faced with the tough decision on where to attend college. “I wanted to go to Georgia Tech,” Morrow said. “I decided the first coach that walked in my door would be the one I would go play for. The first guy to come see me was Malcolm Rainey, an assistant of head coach Frank Thomas at Alabama.”
Timing is everything.
Morrow made his mark at Alabama by becoming one of the best athletes in school history. He played quarterback in Coach Frank Thomas’ Notre Dame Box offense, the offense Thomas installed at Alabama after playing it for legendary coach Knute Rockne at Notre Dame.
“The quarterback was actually a blocking back,” said Morrow. “You started out under center but then shifted left or right. Coach Thomas was a quarterback in Rockne’s system. He was a little fellow like myself. It seemed like a lot of guys that played that position in that offense were little guys.”
Morrow did a lot more though. He was an all-purpose threat that caught passes, ran the football, kicked extra points and played defense. He said that was one of the reasons football in the 1940s was so different than it is today.
“Back then you played both ways, offense and defense,” said Morrow. “The players today are also bigger, stronger and faster.”
Morrow was on the last Alabama team to travel to California to play in the Rose Bowl in 1946. That team went 10-0 in the 1945 season, won the Southeastern Conference Championship and defeated USC, 34-14, in that Rose Bowl.
“We were the last team to go to the Rose Bowl before the Big 10 started sending teams to it. Going out there, you went by a train. We rode a bus to New Orleans and then got on the train. The war was just ending and we got sidetracked by the trains going west to east. The trip took four days. It was long, but we had a good time.
“There was a big crowd of Alabama fans waiting for us when we got to California. In the crowd was a guy by the name of Johnny Mack Brown, a great Western movie star who also played football at Alabama.”
Today Morrow is retired and lives atop Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He spends his winters in Destin, Florida. And he’s even added a fourth sport to his repertoire as he enjoys playing golf, a sport he plays three to four times a week now.
“Each time I play to shoot my age or better,” Morrow said. “I’m 79 years old and last weekend I shot a 72.”