Kyle Morrell, BYU All-American Safety, Dies At 57

Nov 17, 2020, 12:12 AM | Updated: 12:25 am
Kyle Morrell - BYU...
BYU head football coach LaVell Edwards stands with Kyle Morrell (5) after practice in the East-West Shrine game Jan. 2, 1985. (Deseret News File Photo)
(Deseret News File Photo)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football All-American safety Kyle Morrell passed away Sunday at the age of 57. Morrell had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that limited his mobility in recent years.

A graduate of Viewmont High School in 1981, Morrell was a multi-sport star excelling at baseball and football. Morrell was one of Utah’s top baseball prospects in high school, but he opted to sign with BYU on a football scholarship as a quarterback/defensive back.

Quickly the quarterback label dropped as Morrell showed LaVell Edwards and Dick Felt his hard-hitting ability instantly upon arriving on campus.

It was a great move putting him on defense as Morrell served as a key piece to BYU’s undefeated National Championship season in 1984. The No. 16 greatest player in BYU football history, according to KSL Sports’ all-time rankings, Morrell put together one of the best defensive plays you’ll ever see in football.

You’ve probably seen the play a million times, but it’s still as iconic and awe-inspiring as it was 36 years on that late night on the islands.

The Kyle Morrell leap at Hawaii

Rival Hawaii was at the half-inch line ready to score and build on their 13-12 lead in the fourth quarter against undefeated and nationally-ranked BYU.

Morrell made a perfectly-timed leaping tackle to stop Rainbow Warriors signal-caller Raphel Cherry at the goal line. BYU’s offense led by Robbie Bosco then took over from there, and BYU went on to escape the islands with an 18-13 victory and later go on to win the National Title that season.

The athleticism in that incredible leap at Hawaii was a Morrell family trait. Morrell’s older brother, Guy, played football at the University of Utah from 1975-78. His father, Mack Morrell, who passed away in 2018, was a pro baseball player in the New York Yankees organization.

All-American Safety

During the magical 1984 season, Morrell earned 1984 First Team All-American honors from the Associated Press. Giving him a Christmas special introduction from the great Bob Hope. “Let me tell ya, Kyle’s fantastic. He’s intercepted more passes than Brooke Shield’s mother,” said Hope.

Last year, Morrell attended BYU’s game against Liberty as part of the 35th anniversary of that great BYU team. The effects of ALS were visible at that time for Morrell. He was an honorary flag-bearer that night on a field that he dazzled Cougar fans during some of the golden years of BYU football.

In four years with the Cougars, Morrell totaled 88 tackles, six tackles for loss, eight interceptions, two fumble recoveries, seven pass breakups, and one sack. Morrell was named 1984 WAC Defensive Player of the Year. He was selected in the fourth round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings before hanging up the cleats after the 1986 season.

Rest in peace, Mr. Morrell.

Your legacy, as one of BYU’s greatest defensive players, will forever live on.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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Kyle Morrell, BYU All-American Safety, Dies At 57