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Two years ago, Jimmy Morrissey was approached about changing jersey numbers.

The St. Ambrose senior linebacker and Pleasant Valley graduate wore the No. 96 as a sophomore with the Fighting Bees, but the coaching staff asked him if he'd like to wear 44 for his final two seasons, the number worn by Bob Jurevitz, and previously held by Jurevitz' son, Keaton.

Bob Jurevitz was a former All-American running back who still holds program records for most points scored in a career and most touchdowns scored in a career and is second on the school's all-time rushing list 31 years after his career ended in 1985. He passed away in 2011 after a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

"It's been special. It means a lot to me," Morrissey said of playing the last two seasons as No. 44. "That number, just from his legacy, it's a lot more than just a number. It's a persona of hard work, total effort, giving your best and being an outstanding person. Every time I wore it, I tried to play as hard as I could, leave it all out on the field like Bob would."

Saturday, Morrissey received the Bob Jurevitz Award, given annually to the St. Ambrose football player who exemplifies the characteristics of leadership, team-first play and toughness that Jurevitz showed on the football field and in his life. 

"Hearing the stories of him playing from my dad (former Pleasant Valley head football coach Ed Morrissey) and other coaches, it means a lot," Morrissey said. "Honestly, it's probably the greatest award I've ever received."

Each year, head coach Mike Magistrelli nominates players that he thinks are deserving of the award and sends them to the Jurevitz family to be chosen. Morrissey finished the year with 26 tackles, 2.5 for loss but missed three games with an elbow injury.

It was how Morrissey conducted himself during the time away from the field that was one of the factors that contributed into his nomination.

"When you think about the Bob Jurevitz award, you typically think about someone that is very well respected within the program, very dedicated and a hard worker," Magistrelli said. "Sometimes it's natural when you get hurt to take step back and be out of sight, out of mind. Jimmy was the exact opposite, he was always around and always trying to give what advice he could and help out the other players.

"He showed his true colors there, how dedicated he is and how important it is to him see us do well that he was doing anything he could to try and help his teammates."

For Morrissey, who heard stories of Jurevitz growing up and played with Keaton for two years, keeping the award local this year is special. He plans to go into coaching after he graduates, following in the family footsteps as one brother Mike, is the head coach at Moline High School and the other is an assistant at Kansas Wesleyan University.

"There's a lot of great players in this community," Morrissey said. "I think it says a lot about our community as a whole, I think it speaks a lot to the character of everyone here."

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Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times