In 1978, Tyrone J. Morrison, this week’s Homegrown Hero, got on a flight from New York to his base in Spokane, Washington. Before getting to Spokane, he had a layover in Minnesota, where he met one of the most historic European footballers, sitting there, waiting for his flight, with nobody realizing the superstar that was in the airport. His name, Eusébio.
“I was in the service, and I was taking a plane from New York all the way over to my base up in Spokane, Washington, and he was in the back with a guy called Humberto [Coelho],” said Morrison. “We had a layover in Minnesota, ironically, I was reading a Sports Illustrated magazine, talking about him because he was moving to a team called Las Vegas Quicksilvers. So he was there by himself with nobody around. I went over to him and I said, ‘Hey Mr. Eusébio!’ And I showed him the picture, and he started laughing.
“And I said, ‘Can you imagine if this was Europe, you’d be mobbed!’ Nobody had a clue who this guy was. He was by himself, unbelievably, this guy’s a legend and nobody in the airport knew it. We started talking, and he gave me his autograph. I still have it somewhere.”
Morrison is a Retired Lieutenant Colonel, US Air Force, which included a total of 34 years of service -- 4 years Active Duty US Air Force (1974 to 1978), 1 year US Air Force Reserve (1984 to 1985), 29 years in the Air National Guard, a US component. He’s been a season ticket holder since 2012 and is a Red Member.
He remembers the day he was selected to do the coin toss in a 2013 home game.
“I was given the opportunity to do a coin toss, and I think it might have been 2013,” said Morrison. “I'm not sure, it was the year that they won the Supporters' Shield, so that solidified my loyalty and prior to that I became a season ticket holder back in 2012, plus Thierry Henry was here at the time, and I’m a big Arsenal fan. When he came on board, I decided to become a season ticket holder because I enjoyed watching Thierry Henry play and see him on a regular basis.”
For Morrison, the experience to go to Red Bulls matches is one he has been able to share with his daughters and grandson. He fondly remembers a deli place that was steps away from the arena. Supporting the club and his passion for soccer have allowed him to meet people from different parts of the world.
“I believe in diversity,” he said. “I think with diversity people learn and grow because sometimes we don't have the opportunity to go around the world, but if you can associate with people from different countries then you know you can grow.”
From his 34 years of service, he has plenty of memories.
“From 1984 till 2014 you know just about every disaster in this area I've been involved in, including TWA Flight 800, but one of the ones where I was most involved was Sandy,” said Morrison. “It’s ironic because at the time I was stationed at Niagara Falls, and the year before they asked us to volunteer in case we need people for hurricane duty in Florida. So I say, ‘Yeah, I'll do it.’ Ironically, the hurricane came close to my door, and instead of going to Florida, I was going to Floyd Bennett Field, which is 20 minutes from my house.
“And then the funny part is that they had sleeping quarters, so I told the commander, ‘Man, I mean, I just live down the road. Do you mind if I go home?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ And the folks were happy because they had more room, more elbow room, so you know that was quite interesting. The year before that I was in Washington D.C. for Irene, and an earthquake at the same time.”
Other stories Morrison can tell is that he met former president Bill Clinton and shook his hand. One time, he also spotted Henry and Rafael Márquez getting off a PATH train before a league match against San Jose Earthquakes. Henry went on to score a goal, Morrison remembers.
Morrison, who was born in Jamaica and has lived in Brooklyn for 36 years, studied Civil Engineering at Portland State University.
He played varsity soccer at Judson Baptist College, where he was able to put into use the pointers Eusébio gave him when they met in Minnesota.
“I played various positions, but when I met Eusébio, he taught me how to head the ball,” said Morrison. “And then after a while, I started kicking with my left foot. So when I went to college, the coach told me, ‘Man, you got to play outside left, because you’re the only guy who can kick with both feet.’ I enjoyed the sport and I played it since I was nine-years-old. I enjoyed it, and I'm now 65, so I don't play anymore because I hurt my knee. Now I just watch the sport.”
He watches closely every time he comes to Red Bull Arena to support our club. He tells his grandson to also one day bring his children when the time comes. He wants to be remembered as a Red Bulls superfan, but most importantly that he served the people.
“I want to be remembered as a Christian, you know that served God and served people, that's the key because my life on earth is to help people,” he said.