Players PromiseApr 09, 2018

Jordan Morris on Overcoming Diabetes and Becoming A Role Model

At just 23 years old, Jordan Morris already has an impressive list of accomplishments with both the Seattle Sounders and the U.S. Men's National Team including an MLS Cup and a CONCACAF Gold Cup. He is a strong, fast, technically skilled forward, and he is also one of just a handful of professional athletes with Type 1 diabetes. We talked to Jordan about diabetes, achieving goals in the face of adversity and the Jordan Morris Foundation.

Q: You have lived most of your life managing diabetes. Can you tell us a little about what that means?

Jordan Morris: I have Type 1 diabetes. In the most general terms, my pancreas doesn’t produce insulin anymore, like a normal pancreas does. Insulin is the body’s way of keeping your blood sugar normal throughout the day and when you eat. I need an external way to give myself insulin, and so i wear an insulin pump. A normal body, when you eat, calculates how much insulin to give you based on what you eat, but as a diabetic, I have to count all the carbohydrates I eat and calculate how much insulin to give myself.

Jordan talks to a young diabetic fan

Q: When did you find out you were diabetic and what was it like to get that news?

Morris: I was diagnosed the day after Christmas when I was 9 years old. It was a scary experience because I had never heard of diabetes and didn’t really know what to expect or how to handle the news. My mom asked the doctor if I could play sports, and he said the more the better, so that made me feel better. Basically, they took me to the hospital, and I stayed there for a few days while they taught me the ins and outs of dealing with the disease.

Q: What was the hardest part about living with diabetes when you were young?

Morris: The hardest part of dealing with diabetes as a kid is staying on top of it. It’s a 24/7 job that you always have to be paying attention to, and as a 9 year old kid I was forced to be very responsible. Of course I had the help of my parents and friends, but they weren’t with me all the time. So, I really had to mature earlier than most kids.

Q: Who helped you cope with and learn to manage your diabetes when you were young?

Morris: My family was my main help. My dad is a doctor and my mom is a nurse. They were great in helping me learn about diabetes and helping me manage it as best as I could.

Q: What sports did you play when you were younger and what challenges did being diabetic present to an active kid?

Morris: I played baseball, basketball and soccer. Diabetes is tough during sports because if your blood sugar isn’t right during the games, it can really effect how you’re feeling and how you play. If your blood sugar is too high you can feel really sick and your muscles feel really sore. If your blood sugar is too low, you feel very light headed and weak. So it can really affect your performance.  It is especially tough with soccer because there aren’t any timeouts during the game. So, if your blood sugar is off, there isn’t much you can do about it until halftime or after the game.

Q: How did you overcome your own fears and worries about playing sports while managing this disease?

Morris: I started playing soccer when I was 3 or 4. I played a lot of sports when I was younger because I loved them all, but started focusing mainly on soccer when I was 14. For me my biggest motivation in overcoming worries was looking at professional athletes who had diabetes. They had the same disease as me and were living out their dreams, and I thought if they can do it, why can’t I? So that’s my way of trying to inspire younger diabetics, letting them know that this disease can’t stop you from achieving your dreams. Hopefully my story helps motivate kids.

Q: Did you ever worry that diabetes was going to prevent you from pursuing your dream to play soccer?

Morris: At some points I 100% thought that diabetes was gonna hold me back. It can be so frustrating to deal with, and I didn’t know, especially at the professional level, if a coach would think it was too risky to take on a kid with diabetes. My dad recently told me he didn’t even think I would be able to play soccer in college because of diabetes. It’s a lot harder to deal with than people realize, and it can really effect how you play if you aren’t careful. But my whole life I wanted to play professional soccer, and I made the decision that I wasn’t going to let this hold me back from accomplishing my goal.

Jordan Morris for the USMNT

Q: What are the most important things you have learned about performing at a high athletic level as a diabetic?

Morris: The most important thing i’ve learned is how important it is to really be on top of checking your blood sugar and making sure you are in the right spot heading into a game or practice. It is also very important to get into a routine. The first part, staying on top of your blood sugar, is really vital. It can be really annoying. Sometimes I have to stop practicing and run off to check my blood sugar, but I’ve realized that the more on top of it I am, the better I play. I’ve also really gotten into a routine, especially on game days. I eat the same foods, check my blood sugar the same time before games, and it really seems to work for me. So I stress that people try to do the same and get into their own routine.

Q: What lessons has managing your diabetes taught you? Are there ways you think it has made you a better athlete?

Morris: I think at a young age, diabetes made me stronger and helped me mature. It was something that I had to overcome, and I think learning how to do that at a young age is important. Now when little obstacles come into my path, like injuries for example, I feel like I have the mentality to beat them and come back stronger.

Q: Now that you are an adult and a professional athlete, what is the most challenging part of being diabetic?

Morris: The most challenging part now of being a diabetic is playing sports as my job. I have pressure to come out and perform every weekend. When I was a kid, I didn’t have that pressure. If my blood sugar was a little off and I wasn’t feeling as great one game it was ok. But now, I have to make sure everything is perfect going into a game to give myself the best chance to perform well. I wish I was able to just focus on going out and playing, but diabetes adds another factor to think about before and during games.

Q: If you were in a room full of kids with diabetes who wanted to play sports, what advice would you give them?

Morris: My main advice that I give young kids is to never think that diabetes can hold you back from achieving your goals. Whatever your dreams are, if you work hard and take care of yourself, you can achieve them!

Q: Are there any organizations you have worked with or people you would like to recognize that are doing important work with diabetic kids?

Morris: I’ve worked a lot with JDRF which I think does a lot of great work with diabetes research. But i also started my own foundation last year, the Jordan Morris Foundation, with the goal to participate in a lot of community outreach and speak to younger diabetics and give them inspiration and support along their journey with diabetes. You can check out for more info on what we do.

Q: What kind of example would you like to be for young, aspiring diabetic athletes or any athlete, for that matter?

Morris: I think again the example I want to set is one of overcoming this disease. Hopefully I can be a person that younger kids look at and say, “if he can do it, why can’t I?”. I know that was so important to me when I was growing up. A big reason I started my foundation was to be able to talk directly with these kids. I didn’t have that when I was growing up, so I wanted to be someone kids looked up to and used for support.

Jordan with Diabetic Youth

For more info on Jordan Morris and his work with Type 1 diabetes, follow him on Twitter and Instagram and check out the Jordan Morris Foundation.