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How Mitch Morse's 'Dad' persona helps the Bills through thick and thin

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Bills center Mitch Morse will suit up for Sunday's game in very familiar territory. The nine-year veteran started his NFL career with the Chiefs, went to college in Missouri and spends his offseasons living in Kansas City area with his wife and two kids.

Morse has been a part of the Bills roster for five seasons, plenty of time to make Buffalo feel like home. And in that timespan, Morse has grown into becoming an important figure in the locker room and on the offensive line.

Mitch Morse (60), Huddle. Buffalo Bills Training Camp at St. John Fisher University, July 30, 2023.

The center has a great beard with not as much hair on top, but the look goes perfectly with the role he's taken on in the locker room. He's the official dad of the group whether he likes it or not.

"He's a full-blown dad," left tackle Dion Dawkins said who's played with Morse for five seasons. "I mean that to the fullest. How he walks, how he talks, how he looks at you, how he nods his head, especially how he nods at you. It's really slow and dad like."

That slow nod among other things comes off as a bit scary for some on the roster at first.

"At first he was more like quiet and kind of like stern and mean looking, kind of like somebody's father for real," rookie guard O'Cyrus Torrence said. "But he's really cool, genuine and a quietly funny guy. Our relationship has grown a lot since I first got here, so he's been great."

Even Morse knows he can't outrun his natural 'dad' persona. So instead, he embraces it.

"I'm more of the dad of this group," Morse admitted with a smile. "Not so much just as a paternal figure, but I hate being a strait-laced guy, but it in the workspace it is what it is. We got a bunch of great personalities in this offensive line, so for me, it's just trying to get everyone on the same page so they can let their personality show while I just try to get everything in order."

Sounds like a dad, right? Getting things in order behind the scenes and making sure everyone knows what's going on.

I have to admit I'm laughing as I'm writing this because I've known Morse for more than 10 years. I had the privilege of attending college with him at the University of Missouri. We graduated in the same class, and I got to cover his collegiate career at Mizzou.

The both humorous and genuine fatherly traits that his teammates in Buffalo have used to described him are the same ones that were evident during his four-year career playing for the Tigers.

Now as a freshman, you don't take on the role of a dad right away. That's something that has to be earned, which he did. But he'll admit he started off as any college freshman – wide eyed at the road ahead.

"(I was) full of anxiety, but still found a way to have the father title," Morse said of his college days. "But just I think much like now, I really relied on my teammates, offensive linemen and the guys I held to high regards to get me through every day and strive to be the best person he could be."

From very early on in his time at Mizzou, it was easy to notice that Morse was an incredible teammate and person. I was lucky enough to see it from afar covering his team in college, and I'm lucky enough to see it more than 10 years later covering the Bills.

What makes him such a glue guy in the Buffalo locker room is the way he carries himself. Just ask the guy he's been snapping the ball to for five years.

"I can't say enough good things about him," quarterback Josh Allen said. "In the locker room, he's just the best dude. You turn on the tape, he's doing everything right. He obviously makes all the calls for us.

"He's busting his butt to go pick a running back or receiver up off the ground. He leads by example and that's exactly what you would want from your center. He's cool, calm and collected on game days too, which makes it that much easier for me. We are able to talk, and we've got a really good relationship. I'd do anything for that guy."

Much of the team shares that exact same sentiment, and the NFL recognizes that as well. So much so that Morse was elected as one of the nominees for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, which goes to the player who best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents and integrity in competition. Morse has also been voted a captain by his teammates for the last two years.

"The reason he was voted as a captain, in my opinion, is that he's steady every day," offensive line coach Aaron Kromer said. "He's thought out the things that he wants to accomplish, and what the people around him want to accomplish, and I think that makes a good leader."

Buffalo Bills vs New York Giants, Regular Season, October 15, 2023 at Highmark Stadium.

If you ask anyone why he's so well-respected, the first thing people will say is that it's because he's incredibly consistent. It's a great quality to have as an NFL player, an even better quality to have a center who has to do the same thing again, again and again. But it's way more than just consistency on the field.

"He's just the same guy every day, so you know what you're gonna get from him," Torrence said. "And at our position, offensive line, it's just something that you value a lot because we got to do the same thing over and over again."

"For me, it's just trying to be a consistent person, and then hopefully that permeates and resonates through the rest of the guys," Morse said of why he does it. "And more so than leadership is just being someone they can depend on, being the same guy day in and day out."

This consistency is vital because when you have a group of five linemen on the field trying to work as one unit, you need to know you're going to get the same thing from the guy next to you.

"It's the most important thing because as an o-line there's five of us that have to play all on the same beat," Dawkins shared. "So for him to be able to be consistent for us and tell us what direction we're going and this and that is crucial because he is the quarterback of our position group."

Buffalo Bills and Gatorade Unified Flag Football Clinic at One Bills Drive, October 10, 2023.

One thing you can also bet on Morse for is being the good face in the bad or stepping up to a challenge and facing it head on when it's hard for others. Morse was one of the players to speak up in the locker room and help decide it was best to not continue the game when Damar Hamlin suffered his cardiac arrest event last season.

After a tough loss, he's there on the podium answering the tough questions. Morse will say it's something he's gotten better at with time.

"I think when I'll start by saying that you put on a front sometimes, and fake enthusiasm often brings real enthusiasm," Morse said of how he's able to lead through tough situations. "Sometimes I'm hurting just as much or worse than the guys around me…for me, I just always try to do that for my teammates in whatever facet is deemed necessary at the time."

"It just means that we can always depend on Mitch for a sunny sky in a cloudy storm," Dawkins said. "He's shown day in and day out that he's himself, and I think consistent needs to be capitalized when you say that about Mitch because that's what he is."

Morse says he wouldn't be the leader, the player or the man he is today without the help of his teammates.

"I often tell people I have no more macho left in me," Morse said of his willingness to lean on others. "I need all the help I can get from not only my teammates, but I also lean heavily into my family."

While Morse has gotten help from teammates, he's also helped several along the way.

"He's someone that's going to help you out and is easy to understand," Torrence said. "For me, he helped me out early in the season with staying calm before games, making sure I'm remembering the simple things about each plays…he's a teammate I feel like any rookie should have."

The reason why Morse, a nine-year NFL veteran, has the daily drive to be the best version of himself is because of the men who line up next to him. Playing on Sundays in a Bills uniform, next to guys who are committed to giving their all, is a big honor, Morse explains. 

"I think it's why you continue to play into your ninth year, you do it for the guys," Morse said. "What makes winning so sweet is that you win with your teammates in the locker room afterwards. If you do any research or reading on guys going into war, they're thinking about literally the man next to him and having their back because they've formed such a tight bond through no means am I saying we are anywhere close to going through the stresses of war or anything like that. But I think in the same umbrella is, I fight for the guy next to me rather than for myself or money or anything like that. In the thick of it, you're thinking about your guys."

Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots, Week 18, January 8, 2023 at Highmark Stadium.

The center is going back to Kansas City as someone who has grown quite a bit from his rookie season. But Morse will admit even in his ninth year, he's still a work in progress—learning to become a better leader and a more consistent teammate each and every day.

"I'm proud of the steps I'm taking," Morse said. "By no means have I gotten to my destination, I still have a lot of work to do."

Again, sounds like a dad, right? A humble dad, for sure. His goal whenever he decides to hang up the cleats and take on the role of a full-time dad to his two adorable kids is simple.

"I think the beautiful thing about this sport is that you're just renting a jersey, right?" Morse said. "The number 60 has been here long before I was, and it'll be here long after I was here. I think the big thing you want is just whenever your name is uttered or spoken about it was just that he was a good guy and a good teammate and along with that, could play football every now and then."

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