Lots of special teams NFL players bang heads for a living, but few, if any, can match Mike Morris as a head banger. The Vikings' 291-pound long snapper is the league's foremost exponent of heavy metal music. On the airwaves he copilots a weekly half-hour heavy metal radio revue, on KFAN in Minneapolis. In the weight room he listens to heavy metal while pumping heavy metal. His right biceps is even tattooed with the iron-eagle emblem of Judas Priest, the high priests of heavy metallurgy. Morris plans to honor his favorite offensive linemen by having their numbers branded into the bird's purple plumage. "That'll make it a gridiron eagle," he says diabolically. "I'll either mail each player a certificate or send him a chunk of my hide."
Clearly this is one snapped snapper. Morris is, after all, a vagabond veteran who once, for a course at Northeast Missouri State, tape-recorded the sounds in a graveyard ("I was out there an hour and never heard a soul," he says); who has hunted scorpions and rattlesnakes; and who claims to have led his college teammates in a seance to revive the spirit of Truman Capote. "We never did pull Tru up," Morris confides. "I guess we didn't have enough candles."
Candles are about the only Elvirabilia missing from Morris's locker. Among his cubby's more ghoulish talismans are talking skulls, and plastic spiders, locusts and vampire bats. Straddling his Harley hog, Morris roars into the Viking practice facility immaculate in a black leather biker jacket, black steel-toed combat boots and a black T-shirt. He wears a different black T-shirt every day. "I collect them," he more or less explains. He has more than 600 stashed in duffel bags at his home outside Minneapolis. "Black is my color," Morris says, "but I bleed purple."
Before Minnesota snapped him up in 1991, eight pro teams had asked Morris to take a hike in eight years. "I've always known I'd latch on with another team as long as I fired strikes," he says. "The key is to fire them every time, with as much zip as possible." Morris has muffed only one snap in recent memory—two years ago at Pittsburgh in the rain. But he redeemed himself in the game's closing minute with a perfect snap for the Central Division title-clinching field goal.
Not since Eric the Red has a Viking been so eager for battle. "When I go to training camp," says Morris, "I go to war." He took along 500 toy soldiers and encircled his bed with them. Every now and then his roomie, guard Randall McDaniel, would lob over a dirty sock and knock out a platoon. "It was carnage," Morris reports. "Is anything worse than waking up to a bunch of troops with low morale?"
Burdened by such cares, he finds solace in the Mike Morris Fan Club. During the season the organization's 200 or so members gather weekly at McRudy's Pub in St. Cloud, Minn. When Morris takes the field either to make a snap or as a defender on kick-return coverage, everyone in the bar is required to stand. When he makes a tackle, they all get a shot of watermelon schnapps on the house. And if for some reason he should ever score, they will each be compelled to down a semilethal concoction called a snakebite. "Who knows what the hell's in it," Morris says. "I have no earthly idea."
So what accounts for his skewed perspective? Morris blames it on having spent much of his career as a snapper with his head between his legs. "You'd be a little goofy too," he reasons, "if your whole world was upside down."
The Vikings' long snapper has a skewed worldview, but it fits him to a T.