He floated on an air mattress nearly two miles off the coast of San Clemente, Calif., and he felt like he was in a scene from a movie.
“I pictured a really good time between me and my friends like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ when Johnny Depp is stranded on an island and there’s alcohol,” said Anthony Morris, sophomore business administration major. “I wanted to know what that felt like.”
With the company of seven other people over spring break, Morris braved the riptides, rip currents and roasting sun to reach one destination: sand bars.
The only problem: The waves pushed the mattress farther out and the sand bars were now a half-mile off course.
“I could vividly feel my Banana Boat sunscreen coming off my skin and the sun was starting to scorch,” he said.
At that point, the clan, which had been lost at sea for nearly two hours, realized they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Without phones, they had no choice but to wait.
“I don’t live in California, I don’t have a water proof case, I’m not about that life,” he said. “I live in Missouri. I don’t have to worry about my phone getting ruined from the water.”
Hanging on the side of the mattress dangling their feet into the water, a white boat started to approach the group, which had drifted out into the ocean.
“It’s probably a fishing boat, no biggie,” Morris said. “But sure enough, it gets closer and closer and eventually it just starts driving straight toward us and it’s the U.S. Coast Guard.”
It was a terrifying experience, but this wasn’t the first adventure for the Lawson, Mo., native.
“I adore all of Anthony’s stories,” said Megan Stanley, residence hall director of the University Conference Center. “They are real life. He tells stories so well and so genuinely.”
Morris lived on the road with a touring rock festival for nearly four years. Now, he is a business major, community advisor and student ambassador at UCM.
“You know when you grow up really sheltered…you really have an urge to go out and see what the world is like – maybe you do or maybe you don’t,” Morris said. “Maybe you want to live and die in a small town forever or maybe you want to go and see every continent in the world to see what it has to offer.”
Straight out of high school, Morris said he got in touch with his adventurous side when he worked security at the Midland Theatre in Kansas City.
His manager, Anthony Pecoraro, approached him one day during a smoke break and Morris’ stationary life became anything but routine.
Pecoraro asked Morris if he would join the production crew for the summer Mayhem Festival in 2010. The only kicker: The tour started in two weeks in San Bernardino, Calif.
“I was like, ‘What, let me ask my mom,’” Morris said. “That was my first thought.”
Morris said he was silent for a few moments until he said, “Yeah, I’m in.” A handshake with Pecoraro made the deal official.
Morris went from never having traveled farther than two states away to being on schedule to visit more than 30 cities in a three-month period.
“For everybody else, it would be a better experience because they’re normal height, and being 6-7, and living in a van is not the most comfortable of conditions,” he said. “You are living in one lane of highway that whole time, and that’s not a whole lot to work with outside of rest stops.”
Once the tour ended, Morris became unemployed.
Through networking, Morris found new openings for different tours. So when one ended, he scheduled himself to pick up a new tour.
“I would just call my mom and tell her I’m not going to be home for six months now, so be it, whatever,” he said.
Morris committed himself to working at amphitheaters with crowds of 20,000 to 30,000 people to working in little clubs and theaters in downtown areas. While it may have its perks, Morris said it also included a lot of peer pressure.
“When you’re around certain people for a really long time, their influences start to wear off on you a lot,” he said. “So if you’re on tour stranded with a bunch of druggies— you know, the typical rock ‘n’ roll, long hair, tattooed and crazy people after the show— you basically don’t have much of a choice but to be that dude.”
Toward the end of the last tour, Morris said he started getting tired of the lifestyle.
“Somewhere on the end of the last one, that’s where I was kind of getting really wrapped up – that’s where I found drugs, alcohol – all that stuff was really starting to set in,” he said. “At some point you got to step back in third person – drugs are bad, alcohol is terrible – like ‘Ahh, what am I doing?’”
A conversation with his newfound mentor Pecoraro led to another lifestyle change out of tech production and into higher education.
“One day my manager, the same one that hired me like three years prior, told me, ‘You know what? You’re young, you could still do a lot of stuff. You’ve got the potential, so you should probably get out of here while you can,’” Morris said. “I pretty much took his advice, looked into college. But at the same time, I had a 1.8 GPA in high school.”
High school was tough for Morris.
“I had no friends in high school,” he said. “I was the kid who wore Converse every day, Tripp pants – that kid – hung out with that crowd. I knew what it was like to sit down and eat lunch by yourself every day.”
The years on the road seemed to help shape Morris into the outgoing man he is today. He said he was able to make the transition through music.
“(Working for heavy metal bands) you meet a lot of people who have the same mutual interests as you,” Morris said. “Being a dude who wears black all the time, not being around those people your whole life, then suddenly you’re surrounded by thousands of them every day – this is paradise. These people get it.”
Morris said the connection doesn’t have to be music: He said he can be outgoing and talk to anyone.
“When you go from being mega outcast, super black sheep of the family, school, town, everything, to being the center at a college, it’s pretty neat,” he said.
As a well-known face on campus, Morris makes his presence known, unintentionally.
“I don’t know anyone as busy or who has that much life experience,” said Katie Bailey, junior digital media production major and friend of Morris. “His adventures are inspiring because it proves that you can always do what you love if you are hardworking and determined.”
Morris said it was a bit rough making that transition from being a roadie to starting his journey at UCM.
“I came in all about doing the exact same stuff, like the alcohol and drugs – it was all running rampant with me,” he said. “I pretty much ran that off on everyone near me at that point. Knowing it was me doing it, and not just the lifestyle – whereas when I was on the road, the lifestyle was doing that to me – and now I’m here, it was influences that were doing that to other people.”
He was free of the rock ‘n’ roll influences and was ready to do better than a 1.8 GPA. He made the dean’s list his first semester and got accepted into the honors college.
While being a roadie isn’t his priority at the moment, Morris chose a path in business administration to get him back into the music scene.
“I knew that was my best chance of being able to go back out on the road as a roadie, not be in the lower level entry job as a production crew, but I want to go back into tour management and be the top dog – run the operations,” he said.
His college life hasn’t been all about the business.
“Don’t worry about the what-ifs,” he said. “Too many people hesitate and don’t take chances because they’re sitting there running every possible scenario in their head that they don’t need to, and it keeps them from making friends and joining stuff.”
Morris said it’s not all about the money.
“You can get so much more out of spending that money on someone else and doing other things than you could saving it and wondering how much you’re worth,” he said. “It’s monetary – can’t take it with you when you die –it’s nothing.”
Morris’ adventurous side comes down to one thing: his sense of curiosity.
“I kind of crave seeing new things all the time,” he said. “I just want to see and do as much as I can in the time I am here.”
His next big trip includes a plane ride across the Atlantic Ocean. Morris is in the process of applying to study abroad in Lyon, France, to finish his business degree at a specialized business school.
For more stories by Andrea Lopez, click here. Follow Andrea on Twitter @lopezCNews.