FAYETTEVILLE — Senior linebacker Grant Morgan is having an outstanding season and is one of the reasons the Hogs will face TCU in the Mercari Texas Bowl.
Morgan is practicing again after suffering a knee injury against Missouri. He missed the Alabama game the following week, but will be in the lineup against the Horned Frogs on Dec. 31. He has been named first team All-SEC by both the coaches and Pro Football Focus.
“It means a lot to me because knowing where I come from and just being able to just go and do that and be able to show that anything is possible; you just got to work hard,” Morgan said. “But it definitely wouldn’t have been done without my teammates. My individual awards are not showing — they don’t glorify the people that are behind it and the work that’s done in the background. So, my teammates helped me out a lot. They helped me to be in the right place at the right time, just to be able to make the statistics that I did and be able to do what I did.
“We just flew around as a defense and we played really hard and they helped me lead. It was easy because they made it fun, but responding to my brother, being with my brother. It’s awesome. It’s awesome to be able to have a family like this and be able to do something like that. It’s cool.”
How is the knee doing?
“Yes, I’ll be good to go,” Morgan said. “I’ve been dealing with everything, just like everybody else. It’s been good.”
When the knee injury happened against Missouri did it cross your mind you might not get to play again this season?
“A little bit,” Morgan said. “As soon as I got hit, the trainers asked me where it hurt, and I said, ‘Something’s wrong, something’s wrong.’ Then when I had help getting off (the field), that’s when I was like, ‘I’m going back out there. I’ve got to play the fourth quarter.’ And they said, ‘Alright, let’s put a brace on you and we’ll see if you can do anything.’ As soon as I tried to get off the bench where I was sitting down, I put any pressure on it, and I couldn’t really walk.
“That’s when I guess a little doubt come into me where I couldn’t put a single bit of pressure on it. They were like, ‘Alright, we’re getting crutches.’ But we got the MRIs and everything looked good. I know I’d have to sit out against Bama, but the bowl games looks good. So I’m excited to be able to go back out there. I hate watching football. Everyone says, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to watch football.’ I’d rather play it. So I’m definitely going to be excited for this game.”
Another All-SEC team will come out today and Morgan will likely be on that. Another honor he’s up for is the Burlsworth Award named for the top former walk-on player in college football. Brandon Burlsworth played at Arkansas and no Razorback has ever won that award. What would winning that mean to you?
“That would mean the world to me, just because that’s the story we’ve heard growing up,” Morgan said. “That’s the story that coming here, we wanted to be that next guy. We wanted to be the next Brandon Burlsworth story. The story of going from being a walk-on to being a team captain and being drafted. That’s just what you want to do. That’s what you fight for. That’s what I’ve really pushed for. That’s what I’ve tried to be.
“Everyone always says, ‘Live your life the Burls way.’ But that’s the way people should live their life. They live being nice to people, they live being a good leader, they live to be good just on and off the field. It’s an honor to be up for this award and hopefully have a chance to win it. The Burlsworth family, they’re a great family in everything they do for Arkansas and the way they’re in contact with everybody. So it’s really cool to be up for this. Especially an honor for our team too. I’d love to be the first player to win it from Arkansas.”
Morgan leads the team with 111 tackles including 40 unassisted. He has seven tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, five pass breakups and two quarterback hurries.
“The whole year has been a blessing in disguise,” Morgan said. “If you look at the beginning of the year when we were sitting at home in March and we were going ‘are we going to even have a season’ it was, I think, helped me to be able to be who I am today. It helped me because I work extremely hard. I don’t have to be at a certain spot to be able to work hard and I think that helped me keep going. And I think it helped our team. I think it helped our team be able to push past that jumped that we needed. So, this year as a whole is a blessing in disguise because who would have thought that, me winning this award, just as a whole team that’s just to be able to show that we have as many people as we did on the All-SEC team, that’s awesome for this program. It’s awesome for this team. But this year has meant a lot to me, my family, everybody that has been involved with me. And I know I’m more proud of the other guys that were on the All-SEC team just because they deserve it. They deserve the world.”
Morgan has had three head coaches plus an interim head coach since coming to Arkansas. Sam Pittman is now the head coach and helped lead the Hogs to a 3-7 record against an All-SEC schedule.
“We’ve had an identity change of being just hard workers now,” Morgan said. “We’re not about the glamorous, we’re not about trying to make people think we look good. We want to able to go out there and just get the work done. Every single day we put on our hard hats, as Coach Pittman likes to say. We put on our hard hats and we got to work. We’re blue-collar workers, blue-collar men. We just go out there and get the job done. We could be beat up. We could have a hurt elbow, a hurt knee. But we go out there and get the job done. That’s just what we do. That’s how it is.
“The identity of the team is we’re just going to be physical and we’re going to go get the job done. I think that’s what it’s going to be as long as Pittman’s here. I think no matter how good we get. Say one day we win a national championship. That’s still going to be the identity. If we win a national championship, the next day we’re going to come back and Coach Pittman will say, ‘I don’t care. We’re going to work.’ So that’s the identity and that’s what he’s already embodied into this program. The coaches all bought in, and when you see every coach agree with the head coach and the way they act and they’re all similar, then you know you’ve got something good going.”