February 4, 2010
When the New Orleans Saints face the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, SMU loyalties may be divided.
Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay, who is credited with breathing life into the football team, graduated from SMU in 1982 with a degree in broadcast journalism.
Thomas Morstead, star punter for the New Orleans Saints, studied mechanical engineering at SMU and played for the Mustangs in the 2005-08 seasons.
Irsay inherited control of the team in 1997 after the death of his father, Robert. The late Mr. Irsay is probably best known for moving the Colts to Indianapolis from their longtime Baltimore home in 1984.
Irsay and his wife, Meg, fund an annual scholarship for an Indiana high school graduate to matriculate at SMU. He remembers the Hilltop as an incubator for his off-the-field interests in music and film. As a student, he made a short documentary film after John Lennon’s death in 1980. He showed it during late-night screenings at several Dallas-area venues.
“I had an unremarkable career playing football at SMU – only played in ’78 before I got injured,” he recalls. “It was kind of like a George Plimpton (author of the football classic Paper Lion) experience for me. I hadn’t played since my freshman year of high school. But I found my rhythm by pursuing the things I loved at SMU.”
Meanwhile, Morstead was twice named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week this season, for his standout performance at Carolina on January 3 and after the Saints won at Tampa Bay on Nov. 22.
While at SMU, Morstead was a first-team All-Conference USA pick by both the coaches and the media, led Conference USA and ranked ninth in the nation with a 44.6-yard average, and helped SMU rank second nationally in net punting.
Morstead, from Pearland, Texas, was a fifth-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints, 164th overall, in the 2009 NFL Draft. He was the second punter taken overall.
Sunday's game begins at 6:25 p.m. (EST) and will be broadcast on the CBS television network.