Tim Morovick isn’t one for a lot of talk. Generally, he likes to keep his comments short and upbeat, never distracting focus from the task at hand.
“Before games I don’t really like to talk too much, I’m one of those guys who just likes to be by myself, ” he says.
Some things can be communicated without words however. Even if player’s try their best to block out the noise, the media spotlight of a championship game is impossible to avoid. When a panel of six current Superserien players made their title game picks early this week and unanimously predicted the Carlstad Crusaders as the winner, the Stockholm Mean Machines quarterback took notice, even if he doesn’t want to talk about it.
“Yeah, I saw that,” Morovick admits before changing the subject, jaw noticeably clenched and eyes lit up with a competitive fire. “As far as everybody choosing them to win, I’ve got no comment.”
Being the underdog might be an unfamiliar position for the two-time defending Swedish champion Mean Machines, but their signal-caller is no stranger to adversity. For Morovick, the Crusaders present one final obstacle in what has been a tumultuous and challenging few years.
“It’s kind of crazy when you hear someone say it back and tell you what you just went through,” he says of the hard road that led him to Stockholm and a Swedish title shot. “I just tried to keep myself focused on moving forward and continuing to keep the faith that everything was going to work out.”
It’s been awhile since he’s been in this position. In 2017, Morovick was a Polish champion and league MVP with the Wroclaw Panthers, poised to be one of Europe’s brightest young quarterbacks. He was again set to be the league’s leading passer in 2018, but a nasty contract dispute saw him leave the team late in the season. He picked up where he left off with Denmark’s Aarhus Tigers but then disaster struck. A torn ACL cost Morovick the season and the whole experience left him questioning his future in the sport.
“Going into the season in Denmark, I started questioning when is football going to be done for me and what’s next. When I tore my ACL, I went through a couple months where I thought I was done playing football,” Morovick says frankly. “I felt like it was a sign for me to be done, but I also didn’t want that to be the way I went out.”
In some ways, the quarterback got lucky. Having surgery in Denmark, he was operated on by a world-renowned ACL specialist which helped set him up for success. Still, Morovick was on his own and didn’t have a dedicated rehab program at his disposal. When he made the decision to make a comeback, it meant some big commitments.
“When I made the decision that I wanted to play and actually come back from this, I knew that I had to go full throttle with it so I went back home and got with a personal trainer at a rehab center,” he says. “I payed for that 100% out of pocket the whole time, my insurance didn’t cover it because my injury took place overseas and not at home.”
While we often hear of the grueling rehab process for professional athletes, an NFL player might have millions of dollars at his disposal and millions more riding on recovery. Morovick underwent that same painful process with none of the resources and a far less lucrative reward.
“It was a lot of sacrifice,” he admits. “I didn’t have the opportunity to work a job when I was home because I was spending so much time on my rehab. I knew if I realistically wanted to make a comeback from this I had to completely devote myself to it and so I did. I completely cancelled my personal life and did everything I had to do to get back to 100%.”
Morovick did it all so he could return to his life-long passion, a sport he fell in love with as a young kid.
“My dad has been a football coach my whole life so from the time I could walk I’ve been around the game, learning the game,” he recalls with a smile. “I started playing flag football when I was 11 years old, created my own offence and was my own offensive coordinator at 11, so I always knew this is what I wanted to do”
Even once his knee was back at full strength, Morovick’s return to the football field was plagued by an unpredictable obstacle: the COVID-19 pandemic. The ever changing landscape of international football seemed to keep the resumption of his childhood dream just out of reach. First he signed on with the Helsinki Wolverines of the Finnish Maple League, but they elected to go without imports for their shortened season and his contract was voided. Morovick then tried to take his talents to Brazil and signed with the Curitiba Brown Spiders, only to have a rising caseload in that country cause a canceled season. Finally, Morovick landed with the Stockholm Mean Machines and found a team as determined and dedicated to winning as he was.
“Getting here, I could definitely tell there was a higher standard of winning from the very beginning. From how many coaches we have, to how practice is run, to how many people show up to practice, to film sessions, this is a professionally structured organization,” Morovick explains. “I knew from the start there was no messing around here. You step into the building and it’s about winning a championship and nothing else.”
Now they are on the precipice of doing just that, thanks in large part to Morovick’s command of a potent offensive attack that led the league in every category. Equally comfortable using his legs as he is picking apart defences with his arm, Morovick has shown no ill-effects from his injury and has a arsenal of weapons around him that every passer in Europe would be jealous off. The one dark spot was a shutout loss to finals opponent Carlstad in the regular season finale. It was a defensive performance that many say makes the Crusaders the favorites on Saturday, but Morovick expects a much different performance from his team.
“I definitely think we are better prepared for them than the last time we played,” he says. “It was a humbling experience for us.”
“They’ve got a very good defense, probably the best defense in the league. They do very good things up front with varied fronts, the different stunts that they like to run, and the confusing blitzes that they show. Their secondary is very good so even if they are bringing pressure, they are able to cover behind it. They cause a lot of problems for everybody that they play.”
In a matchup between high-flying offense and shutdown defense, some have suggested less than ideal field conditions this weekend will be what cripples the Mean Machines. For Morovick, that is meaningless outside speculation.
“We are going to continue to play our game and do what we do regardless of the field, the rain, or the mud. It doesn’t matter,” he says. “At the end of the day, you’ve just got to go out there and win a football game.”
That win would be the culmination of a long, hard road for Morovick and a validation of the effort he’s put in to get back to the top of his game. Through it all, the quarterback kept the faith and now he’s exactly where he wanted to be.
“I knew that if I just kept working hard through all those bad days and bad times then something good was going to happen,” he explains. “Now we’re here and the hard work is finally starting to pay off and hopefully it continues to pay off on Saturday.”
What would being a Swedish champion mean to him after all that adversity?
“You can ask me that question again after the game,” laughs Morovick. “It just took a lot to get back here, so it will be special.”