Having to adjust to living in a different university at another state can be quite the task. It's even more challenging when you have to do not only that but also transfer to a football team and be successful in becoming the top defenders on the squad.
Safety Jarron Morris (pictured left) and linebacker Jackson Ambush (pictured right) have shown that the aforementioned can be achieved, highlighting the Florida Atlantic football team as the shining stars of the defense.
Ambush tops the Owls as the undisputed leader in tackles made with 28 (14 solo), and making one pass deflection as well as an interception. On the other hand, Morris is the runner-up with 25 tackles (15 solo) while deflecting five passes, forcing a fumble, and making an interception which he returned for a touchdown.
Morris spent the first five years of his collegiate career at Texas State, amassing 243 total tackles over 50 games. He also made eight interceptions, 35 pass deflections, 14.5 tackles for loss, and four forced fumbles for the Bobcats. He was named 2020 All-Sun Belt Second Team by both the league and Phil Steele after posting a team-best 69 tackles, and was tabbed Sun Belt Honorable Mention in 2019.
Believing he achieved all he could with the Bobcats, he looked for a different challenge as FAU appeared onto his radar during his time in the transfer portal.
"When I came on an official visit, the culture was what got me. On Saturday, everybody is up here working and having fun, just things that I didn't get to see at Texas State," Morris said.
Ambush had the entirety of his football career take place at the Empire State, playing four seasons at Albany. He finished with 197 tackles (105 solo) while creating four pass deflections, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble, and an interception in 29 games with the Great Danes.
Graduating from Albany at the end of the Spring 2023 semester, he wished to take his talents down south as defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni sold him on the prospect of playing at FAU.
"He's taught me about the defense, he's teaching me these things I didn't even know and I was in college for four years. We were in there for probably 10-15 minutes. He just laid it out for me and after that, he just looked at me and I was like, "yeah, I'm going there"," Ambush said.
Even in a span of just a couple of months since they transferred to the program, Morris and Ambush already created plenty of bonding moments and memories with the team. For Ambush, it was during the summer when the squad were relentless with the effort they showcased throughout every practice session despite the scorching heat that came down on them.
"We're out there sweating and you just look at the guy next to you and you really think about quitting but then at the same time you see him keep going. it's just that level of competition that you have with your brother; you just want to keep competing," Ambush said.
For Morris, his special moment came during the Owls' second game of the season against the Ohio Bobcats on September 9th. On a certain play during the second quarter, Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke fired a pass to Tyler Walton that ultimately saw the ball bounce off the receiver and fall right into Morris' hands as he ran all the way for 72 yards to the end zone to score the touchdown.
"I knew early on in the game because he ran the same route early on and I've seen the signal the quarterback gave him and I see him give it to him again on that play. So I was like, "it's coming". So I just wanted to keep down and be ready for a break because I was expecting to make a tackle…when it tipped up, I went up big and see it coming to me and I caught it," Morris said.
FAU head coach Tom Herman praised their ability to lead by example, looking at Ambush and Morris for the success they had at Albany and Texas State.
"I feel like our awesome recruiting staff and defensive staff did a really good job of really checking under the hood, if you will, of what makes these guys tick. And they've been immediate leaders and contributors less so even from a talent standpoint and more so from a leadership standpoint and just overall example of when guys do things the right way. It's funny how the ball finds them and they make plays," Herman said on the duo.
Bellantoni shared similar sentiments, complimenting their intelligence and work ethic while wanting them to step up their leadership with the experience they have gained over the past few years.
"They are grown men, they are mature, they go about their business the right way, and they handle themselves like professionals," Bellantoni said.
"They're playing very well. Jarron is playing at a very high level, and we just need them to come more out of their shell and take this group by the horns because those are the guys you want to follow around: the guys who act like pros. So I'm very happy with what they've done so far."
With non-conference play now in the books as the Owls come out of it with a 1-3 record, both Morris and Ambush believe there is more confidence from the team especially after having played back-to-back Power Five teams in Clemson and Illinois.
"Honestly, it's just going back to the basics, starting over like we did during camp. Get the basics down and have less mental errors when it comes to game time. It's just second nature; you go all out with what you got," Ambush said.
The Owls will begin conference play next week when they host Tulsa at Howard Schnellenberger Field on October 7th at 6:00 PM. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.