Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Morgan making the move

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming wide receiver Donate Morgan works out during a spring practice.

Editor's note: This story was originally published this spring on a previous version of Wyoming

By Richard Anderson

During a spring practice, Wyoming junior wide receiver Donate Morgan beat speedy freshman cornerback Ryan Handford on a deep ball. He also dropped a short stationary sideline pass and later made a spectacular diving catch in traffic.

Blessed with arguably as much speed as anyone on the team and maybe in the league, Morgan is going through the transition trials and tribulations of a redshirt walk-on to a probable starter in one season. He takes praise and constructive criticism in stride, nearly as easy as his fleetness on the field.

Morgan is a young man who has lofty goals in his athletic and personal life and knows that it will take fortitude and hard work to achieve them. Not happy with his role at Division II St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind., Morgan came west on his own dime for another opportunity.

Transferring to Wyoming, he redshirted last season as a walk-on and earned a scholarship for the 2008 season.

“It was hard from a financial decision. My parents couldn’t afford school, so I had to make a decision that I either stopped playing football or I pursued my dreams,” Morgan said. “I just had to sacrifice and do it. I’ve been successful so far.”

Wyoming receivers coach Ron Wisniewski calls Morgan a “good student and an A-plus person.” Head coach Joe Glenn said Morgan is a “quality kid.”

And they both think he can play football.

“The first day of practice, I could tell he was a scholarship player,” Wisniewski said. “But he couldn’t play because he had to do his year of penance, as I like to call it. He would have played last year if he had been eligible. He’s done a good job in the classroom and we expect him to be a starter this year. He has to earn it and do it, but we expect him to be a big playmaker.”

Morgan did everything he could on the scout team last year, performing as a receiver and running back, whatever the Cowboys needed an athlete to do.

“I knew I was going to have to sit out. I just wanted to help the team, to do whatever I had to do,” Morgan said. “Scholarship players don’t have to deal with that as much, so I knew I had to show what I had and that I would do anything for the team. It was never about me being an individual, it was for the team.”

Morgan not only did his duty as a scout team player, but he opened some eyes.

“I showed that I had the ability to play Division I football,” he said. “They saw that they could trust me to come in and play on a Division I level against the top teams that we will play this year. I just showed them what I had to do and I did it.”

During winter conditioning drills, he beat senior running back Devin Moore in a foot face.

“Yes, it’s true. He (Moore) won’t admit it, he’ll say he was hurt or something like that,” Morgan said with a laugh.

Morgan and fellow wide receiver Chris Johnson give the Cowboys the ability to spread the field with their speed.

“I can get a lot of other people open. There will be a lot of balls for the receivers,” Morgan said.
Wisniewski said the Cowboys have not had a burner on the outside for some time.

“Hoost (Marsh) was a fast guy, but he played in the slot for us; we’ve not had an outside receiver who has super-fast wheels here for the last two or three years,” Wisniewski said. “Donate and Chris will do that for us. We’ll be able to stretch the field and it will make it hard for people to defend us.”

While Morgan has shown signs of ability and quickness, he has also not played a Division I game. Wisniewski said that Morgan has to work on his hands and work on his route running to complete the package.

“But, I promise you that he will be, if not the fastest, one of the top two or three fastest wide receivers in the Mountain West Conference this year,” Wisniewski said.

Last year’s redshirt season and this spring's practices were been nothing but a learning experience for Morgan.

“I’m going to drop passes, but I am going to stay after practice and catch more balls and do what I have to do to get better,” he said. “I want to go to the next level, so I have to work harder than the next guy.”

A Chicago native, Morgan will be the fourth player by this fall to be on the Wyoming roster from Mt. Carmel High School. He joins current Cowboys and former Mt. Carmel High players Keith Lewis (So., CB) and Mark Oliver (RFr., LB) on the roster. A fourth Mt. Carmel alumnus, freshman wide receiver Justin Morgan (no relation), will join the team this fall.

That certainly helped in his decision to come to Wyoming. It was family, however, that might have been the deciding factor. His uncle, Wyoming State Trooper Gaylan Wright, lives and works out of Cheyenne.

“I have family here so I wanted them to watch me play,” Morgan said.

The second youngest of five children of Annette and Carey Wright, family is also the reason he is in school. A business administration major, Morgan said he wants to go to a Fortune 500 company or “just show people how to spend their money or build my own company, be an entrepreneur.”

He said he couldn’t have asked for better role models than his parents.

“My mom and my dad did a lot for me, and I just want to show them that for all of the things that they did for me, I will accomplish my goals,” he said. “I will graduate from college and get a degree. Even if I don’t get to go to the league (NFL), if I get my degree, I just want to make my parents proud. That’s really why I am here.”

Football is a bonus.

“He is all of the things you want from a player on and off the field,” Glenn said.

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