ESTERO — Derrick Morse isn’t ready to contemplate retirement from the gridiron.
At 25, the desire to play in the NFL still burns inside the immense frame of the former Estero High and University of Miami offensive lineman.
That’s why Morse is eager to give professional football another shot.
Morse said that he agreed to a one-year contract with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League on Thursday night.
“I’m excited,” the Bonita Springs resident said. “It’s another opportunity for me to show what I can do. I think there’s still some football left in me.”
Invited by his former college line coach Art Kehoe, who holds the same position with the Mountain Lions, Morse attended Sacramento’s one-day tryout last month. He’ll return to California on Tuesday for the team’s mini-camp.
Morse hopes to earn a spot as a starting guard or center for a team which is owned by the husband of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and is coached and managed by former Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green. Sacramento will open its season on Sept. 18 in Connecticut against the Hartford Colonials.
Morse’s 6-foot-5, 325-pound figure is close to the dimensions he sported when he manned the OL for four years in Coral Gables.
Since those college days ceased, Morse’s ultimate goal -— playing in the NFL — hasn’t evaporated. He believes a strong performance in the second-year UFL could catch some eyes.
“I’m trying to use this as a stepping stone to get back to the NFL,” he said.
After his college career concluded in 2007, Morse pursued a job in the NFL. He played in four preseason games with Cleveland in 2008, but was cut by the Browns before the regular season commenced.
When no team expressed interest in him last year, Morse acknowledged he was “down in the dumps.”
Down, but not out.
Morse won’t allow his dream to fade.
“That’s what’s keeping me going,” he said. “If I felt I didn’t belong, I wouldn’t keep trying.”
Even though it’s been nearly two years since he last played in a game, Morse said he might be in the best shape of his life. He’s been working out under the guidance of Rick Lademann at Beyond Motion in Naples.
“He’s got me in crazy, awesome shape,” Morse said. “He’s brought me to the next level.”
Whether Morse’s playing career ascends to higher levels remains to be seen. The long-term substitute teacher and assistant football coach at Cape Coral’s Island Coast High admits, however, that this shot might just be his final one.
“This is kind of like my last hurrah,” he said.