Football is more than a game for UCLA's Morgan
MAY 10, 2013 4:49p ET
“He told me ‘do it!’ “ Morgan recalls the conversation the two had at Ladera Park in the spring of 2012.
Morgan's friend told him, “If I had the opportunity, I would do it. Just do it, no matter what you have to do. You know how it is in sports, you have to come in from the bottom.“
At the time Morgan, who spent six years working in sales, was debating giving up nearly everything to pursue an opportunity in the UCLA football department as a coaching intern, a position he wound up taking in April 2012.
Less than six months after that conversation, Drake died unexpectedly at the age of 30. Morgan was crushed. The two had been friends since their freshman year at Westchester High School. They were teammates during an era in which the Comets became known for more than just their basketball exploits as they guided the football team through one of the bright eras in school history.
Drake was an All-City tailback and Morgan paved the way for him as a versatile All-American offensive lineman.
The two continued their football careers in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan, where they were also roommates for four years.
It was a strong bond shared by the two. The words of his late friend remained with Morgan as he progressed through his time as an intern with the Bruins.
It is any intern’s goal to be retained by their prospective company and that goal was achieved by Morgan.
However it wasn’t in coaching, per se. Last month, Morgan was named the UCLA Director of Football Player Development and High School Relations. A position created specifically for him by head coach Jim Mora.
He has a broad and very wide range of responsibilities from alerting the coaching staff of any prospective recruits to helping the current players in growing in life outside of the game of football.
Ultimately, he thrives in his role as a mentor.
Throughout his life, Morgan has seen teammates, opponents, and others with NFL dreams collapse with no plan and nowhere to go once those dreams faded. Drake, Morgan says, wishes he would have done some things differently.
Now, Morgan wants to help those in what he says is an “extreme epidemic.”
“I’m a football dude,” Morgan said. “I’m not just a mentor, I love football …(but) they got to get their degree and they got to be well rounded and you have to use football as a spring board.
“It’s a lot of players that play D-1. People always talk about the NFL and they always talk about dudes in the league ‘Oh, they go broke.’ No, it’s more kids that go to college that play in major universities and when they get done don’t know who they are. They don’t have an identity.”
Being the “football dude” that he is, Morgan absolutely believes in players dreaming high. If making it to the NFL is something they would like to accomplish, he supports them 100 percent. However, he feels he holds a responsibility to inform such players on the sacrifice that comes with having such large goals. He also feels he holds the responsibility of informing student athletes of their options away from the game of football, something he believes isn’t touched on too frequently.
“When (colleges) come recruit you, every school is like ‘We got the best alumni in the world, we got 100,000 people (in a certain area), multimillionaires, but they don’t give you the blueprint on how to get in touch with them.
“They don’t tell you how to meet them. They don’t tell you how to get in front of them and get a job. They don’t tell you how to get to know them on a personal level so that you can come talk to them when you’re done (playing). Not that they don’t know you just by that name on the back of your jersey. My goal is to tell you how to get it like that.”
In a sense, Morgan sees it as his way of giving back. Student athletes are often times misguided. He’s seen it and lived it and now he has a platform to correct it in his new position at UCLA thanks to his sacrifice and advice from a friend.
“I knew when my friend passed away that this was the road I was supposed to be on and it was a sign, like keep going and a year later it paid off,” he said.
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