Tribune Top 5 Male Athletes 2016-17: No. 4 Drake Morley

Josh VanDyke • Jul 11, 2017 at 6:30 AM

The Grand Haven Tribune is counting down its top five teams, as well as male and female athletes of the 2016-17 school year. The No. 4 boys athlete of the year is Drake Morley of Grand Haven. The senior three-sport standout was a sparkplug for the Buccaneers football, wrestling and lacrosse programs over the course of his career. His energy and enthusiasm helped him to All-Conference honors in lacrosse and an All-State honors in wrestling.

If you’ve been around the Grand Haven sidelines during a game, match or practice, you’ve probably seen Drake Morley’s happy-go-lucky personality. His energetic enthusiasm might be confused for a lack of focus by those outside the program, but that would be a big mistake. Morley is simply excited to compete, and when his 215-pound frame hits full speed, the opposition was anything but happy-go-lucky.


On the gridiron, Morley was a two-year starter for the Buccaneers at his inside linebacker position. He racked up 63 career tackles, including 32 this past fall. Morley used his quickness, aggression and physicality to shed blocks, get to the ball and make a play for his team.

Grand Haven football coach Joe Nelson

On what makes Morley a great football player

“It’s because he loves to play and compete. Whether it’s football, wrestling or lacrosse, he just loves to be active, and he’s always excited for competition and live action. He’s always been playful out on the practice field, and he loves to have fun. Sometimes that gets confused for fooling around, but anyone who knows Drake knows that he’s dialed in.

“What makes him such a good linebacker is that he has a knack for finding action. He has a nose for the ball, and he’s always quick and action-packed with his movements. He loves to be a part of the action, and you can see that in all three sports that he plays. He’s not timid, and he’s not holding anything back.”

First impression of him

“I didn’t really see him play until he was a sophomore. I knew him as a person from being a teacher at the school a little bit. I knew right away that he was a go-getter and that he was going to do a nice job as an inside linebacker for us. He had the right attitude to play the position, and I knew he wasn’t afraid of contact.”

On Morley’s career growth

“I would say going into his junior year. He answered a lot of questions that we had as far as whether his abilities would translate to the varsity level in the O-K Red Conference. He put those questions to bed pretty quickly, and he was an anchor for our defense the last two seasons.”

On being Morley being a multi-sport athlete

“He gets excited about whatever he’s doing. I don’t think he’s a kid that’s ever complacent. I think he was better at all three sports because he played three different sports. That helped him stay active and conditioned to play the next season’s sport. I think all three of those sports really blended together nicely for him and helped him compete at an optimal level.”

Favorite memory of coaching Morley

“I don’t know if there’s one memory that I enjoyed most. I just really enjoyed how enthusiastic he was when he played. He would come off the field and be excited about anything that went well for his team. He’s a playful kid and he got everyone on the team excited, especially when he made a play.”


After hyperextending his elbow in the semifinal round of regionals as a junior, Morley was back with a vengeance on the wrestling mat this winter for the Buccaneers. He bumped up from his normal 189-pound division to the ultra-competitive 215-pound class and didn’t miss a beat. In fact, Morley thrived — compiling a 32-6 record.

After winning his weight class at the Division 1 regional, Morley entered the Division 1 state meet as the second overall seed in the 215-pound division. Morley reeled off three straight victories and found himself one win away from a individual state championship.

Unfortunately, top seed and undefeated Ben Cushman (56-0) of Flushing got the better of Morley in that match, 11-6. Morley finished with All-State honors as the Division 1 runner-up and capped his varsity career with 98 wins.

Grand Haven wrestling coach Vince Gervais

On what makes Morley such a talented wrestler

“His accolades speak for themselves. Anytime you win more than 30 matches in a season, you’re doing something right. His quickness and foot speed for his size are what set him apart in his weight class. What’s impressed me that most, though, is his leadership and his dependability.

“No one cheered on his teammates as hard as Drake did. He was almost more excited when a teammate won than when he got a win. He just always enjoyed the competition, especially competing with his teammates at team events.”

First impression of Morley

“He’s always been a kind of squirrelly. He was in our lineup as a freshman, so I got a pretty good understanding of Drake right away. He had older brothers coming through the program, so he had an understanding of what was expected of him. I knew he was going to be compete at a high level by the time his varsity career was over because he worked so hard in the wrestling room.”

On career growth

“I would say his junior year. That’s when he really took his game to the next level. He probably would have placed at the state finals as a junior, but he injured his elbow in the semifinal round of regionals. That was disappointing, because he was performing at a really high level at that point.”

Favorite memory of coaching Morley

“I think seeing him bounce back his senior year and reach the individual state championship match was pretty special. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing, because he’s been a part of four district titles, one conference championship, one regional championship and has been with the program since I took over four years ago. Drake will be a hard person to replace in our lineup and in our locker room.”


After punishing ball carriers as an inside linebacker in the fall and pinning the opposition to the mat in winter, Morley never slowed down as he hit full throttle in the spring as a defenseman on the Grand Haven varsity lacrosse team.

In two seasons at the varsity level, Morley recorded 40 forced turnovers and 100 groundballs.

Grand Haven lacrosse coach Lee Ingalls

On what makes Morley a good lacrosse player

“As a sophomore, he was a varsity starter. He’s been a core defender for us since then. He lost his junior season due to an elbow injury during the wrestling season.

“I think what makes him so special is that he always had his best games against the best teams on our schedule. When we were going up against the Rockford, East Grand Rapids and Forest Hill Central, he took his game to the next level. His assignment as a defender was always the other team’s best attacker. He always played against the best, and he would frequently shut that guy down.

“He’s got superior hand-eye coordination and quickness, too. Some of these passes are coming in at 100 mph, and he’s making plays on it. Defensively, the feet are your biggest weapon and Drake has always used that foot speed and quick-twitch reaction to make plays for us.”

First impression of him

“I’ve known Drake since he first started playing lacrosse. In middle school, he was a key defender for us. He and Noah Brackenberry were like the bash brothers out there with how hard they played and how physical they were.

“I knew right away that Drake was a fierce defender back then and when he grew into his body, he was a monster out there. Offensive players are always trying to beat a defender, and when they ran into Drake, they usually ending up passing the ball out to someone else, because they knew they weren’t getting past Drake.”

On being a multi-sport athlete

“We love multisport athletes. The three sports he plays are all very physical. Linebacker, wrestler and defender in lacrosse. There’s a lot of 1-on-1 isolation moments, and he thrives at those. I think the conditioning for all three of those sports really helped him get ready for the next season and there was no drop-off in his performance in any of the sports.” 

Favorite memories

“He’d drive me crazy during practice, because he was so happy-go-luck. But he was definitely taking it seriously out there. I just really enjoyed watching him compete because he was so happy whenever something went well and he was like a big kid out there.

“As a coach, my favorite thing about him was that he was very consistent. He’s never had a bad night, and I’ve had to worry about him losing focus or not playing at the highest level. He was always ready to compete and defend his net, his teammates and his friends.”

Tribune Top 5 Male Athletes Countdown

No. 5 Grant Ruster

Honorable Mention: Joey Zelenka, Cam Ball, Levi Six

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