Many names and faces have passed through the San Francisco 49ers’ locker room over the years for short stints. There were some marquee players best known on other teams that made short layovers with the 49ers à la Randy Moss and Isaac Bruce.
However, there were also the some very random players that made detours with the team in the twilights of their careers. Wide receiver Johnnie Morton is one of those random faces who stopped by for “two cups of coffee” as Troy Aikman would say. Let’s take a look back at his career which included one season with the 49ers and a professional MMA bout in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Morton grew up in Torrance, CA and played collegiate football at USC. He was there for all four years. In 1993, his senior season, he recorded 88 receptions for 1,520 yards and 14 touchdowns. His receptions and yardage totals put him at first in the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) that season. And with that performance he was a first-round pick in the 1994 NFL draft. The Detroit Lions selected him 21st overall.
From 1997 to 2001 Morton had four 1,000 plus yard receiving seasons with the Lions. In 2002 as a free agent, Morton signed a five-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. After three lackluster seasons, in which he failed to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark, the Chiefs released Morton.
In 2005, under the regime of new head coach Mike Nolan, the 49ers signed Morton. He would not be able to recreate his success with the Lions in San Francisco. Morton would only play one season with the 49ers, appearing in 13 games. He logged 21 receptions for 288 yards and no touchdowns.
That would be Morton’s last season in the NFL. After his football career ended, things got very interesting.
In 2007, Morton would compete in his first (and only) MMA match, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the same stadium in which he dazzled crowds a little over a decade earlier. This fight card which was put on by K-1 and was so iconic that even the powerful Joe Rogan mentioned it on his recent Fight Companion episode of the Joe Rogan Experience, claiming that he and Eddie Bravo were present at the event.
Morton would debut against Bernard Ackah of the Ivory Coast. The fight unfortunately would only last 38 seconds, and Morton would be knocked out cold and have to leave the ring on a stretcher. Not a very stellar debut in the world of combat sports.
An equally unfortunate revelation came to light after the fight. Morton’s pre-fight urinalysis came in hot and it was determined that he used anabolic steroids. “A Knockout and a Failed Drug Test” could be a really great name for a tell-all documentary, I’m just saying.
A.D. (After Drug-Test)
Needless to say, Morton did not get back into the MMA arena after the loss to Ackah. Whether it was the severity of the loss or the ramifications post the failed drug test, he (wisely) decided not to jump back in.
He managed to stay out of the limelight until a curious 2012 ordeal in which he was sentenced to two years of probation. The charge was lying to grand jury for his involvement with a convicted money launderer. Seeing as his name hasn’t popped up as of late it seems like he’s been laying low.
Morton has seen a lot in his days and we really hope ESPN does a 30 for 30 on him at some point. It would be interesting, intriguing and it would show a number 84 49ers jersey at some point (which would be the highlight). As far as a title goes, I wouldn’t be mad if they decide to call it “A Knockout and a Failed Drug Test.”
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