TAMPA, Fla – As Grant Morgan entered one of his last press conferences as the Arkansas Razorback, he received a Christmas present.
It was his Brandon Burlsworth trophy.
He brought the trophy presented to the nation’s outstanding player at the press conference and placed it between himself and quarterback KJ Jefferson.
“KJ won it,” he laughed as director of soccer sports information Kyle Parkinson moved the trophy to Morgan’s table side.
It was only fitting that Morgan had the trophy with him.
He’s gone from being an unknown freshman to All American and team chief for the Arkansas Razorbacks and after six years, one more season of covid compliments, he’s ready to move on.
“It’s about time,” said the Greenwood native. “I will miss being with my teammates and I will even miss you guys [the media] but I am delighted to be a fan in the future.
In some ways, it looks like Morgan should be the starter.
Six years and a few degrees, two dismal seasons of 2-10 years, and over the past two years he’s been one of the main reasons the Razorbacks have come out on top again.
Winning for him was a searing goal, but it was never about him.
It’s about a team.
As he and Jefferson shared a moment with the media, he was constantly talking about this guy or that guy. He nodded at everything Jefferson was saying.
He was smiling a lot.
He’s comfortable in himself and when his career is examined it should be that of a top player who has played with pain, aches and even when he was better on the sidelines.
For the first time in too long this Saturday, he will not be wearing a knee or elbow pad.
“It’s awesome,” he said with a laugh.
Morgan, Jefferson, Raheim Sanders and John Ridgeway were the players called by Sam Pittman to address the media on Tuesday.
Hand-picked by the coach, all focused on Penn State and the Outback Bowl.
Questions came from all walks of life, but the answers always ended up focusing on Saturday’s game.
There is respect for Penn State, and there should be, and when it was mentioned that the Nittany Lions have two players declared for the draft and to retire from the bowl this week, they shook their heads and said, Penn State did not choose outside.
Ridgeway, a transfer senior, even said he never considered not playing even though he was invited and accepted a chance to play in the Senior Bowl.
He said he was going to finish what he started.
Maybe coaches who cancel bowl games should ask themselves what message they’re sending to all the kids who shed blood, sweat and tears for their team and didn’t stop.
There is no surrender in Pittman or those Razorbacks.
The players talked about the great hospitality here, the great weather and all the activity, but at the end of it they talked about the execution against Penn State.
Much of that credit goes to Morgan who devoted himself to the Razorbacks and their quest to get out of the cellar and become viable again.
A guy who had 38 tackles in 12 games in a red shirt freshman, 24 in 12 games in sophomore and 39 in juniors renewed his contract when Pittman was hired. He made 111 tackles in nine games (he missed three with injury) in his senior season and 96 in his super senior season.
Ranked at 5-11, he’s undersized as an SEC linebacker and no one will ever ask him to run on the track, but he has a heart that can’t be measured.
All the Razorbacks needed in defense he tried to do and when they needed leadership two years ago it was the unannounced Morgan who filled in all the gaps.
Morgan won her full honors with strength and combat.