FIUs James Morgan Ready to Show His "A" Game Heading to the NFL Combine
Patrick D. Starr
"The Duke," a football specifically sized for the NFL, has been in quarterback James Morgan's bedroom since he started playing the position in college. Tossing the football around in his room keeps the NFL fresh in Morgan's mind, a persistent reminder of a goal left to achieve.
Playing his high school football at Ashwaubenon in Wisconsin and not too far from the football mecca of Lambeau Field, Morgan had his sights set on bigger aspirations.
Starting his college career as a quarterback at Bowling Green under Dino Babers, Morgan redshirted his first season with the Falcons in 2015. Babers led Bowling Green to a 10-3 record, which landed him a new position at Syracuse and Morgan searching for answers under a new coaching staff the next two seasons.
Looking for a new direction for himself both academically and athletically, Morgan felt it was in his best interest to transfer schools. He decided that Florida International University was the choice of him, mainly due to Butch Davis taking over the program and preaching a family atmosphere.
Morgan did not disappoint in his first season on campus in 2018, helping lead the Panthers to a school-record nine-wins starting 12 games. Setting a school record for passing touchdowns (26) and the second-most passing yards (2,727) in a season. Morgan helped the program to its most successful season to date.
With plenty of hope heading into his final season of eligibility, Morgan and the Panthers season did not go as planned. Using the 2019 season as a learning experience, he mentioned he did not have any regrets for the way the season turned out.
"Each season is its own kind of beast, Morgan said of this past season. "There are things that happened that are good things that happened that are bad."
The Shrine Game
With the combined production of his two seasons at FIU, Morgan was able to show up on the NFL radars. Receiving invites to both the Shrine Game and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Morgan chose the Shrine Game to get in front of scouts and start the process of making his name known in NFL circles.
Morgan called the Shrine game a "rewarding experience," especially when he has the opportunity to visit the Schriner's Hospital and spent time with the kids during the week.
During that week, the Shrine game presented Morgan with the 2020 Pat Tillman Award for the player who best exemplifies intelligence, sportsmanship, and service. The award celebrates a student athlete’s achievements and conduct on and off the football field.
Interviewing with scouts over the week, learning a new playbook, his teammates, and how NFL systems work, Morgan soaked in as much as he could to get a taste of the professional life.
"Really happy with that whole week," Morgan said of playing in Shrine Game. "In terms of competing and in terms of being able to participate in that. Just a lot of fun for sure."
At the Shrine Game, Morgan was able to help lead the East team to a 31-27 win by going 9 of 14 passing for 114 yards and a touchdown. His strong week of preparation on and off the field had NFL evaluators wanting to see more of him.
Preparing for the NFL Combine
Being extended an invitation to the Combine, Morgan went to work to prepare for his most important job interview of his career.
"When I got the invitation, I was obviously really excited," Morgan said of being invited to the Combine. "It's a great opportunity to work my tail off, be prepared so I can show these NFL coaches, GMs, scout,s everybody that I can compete with these guys and I got what it takes."
Working at ASPI in Florida, Morgan is working on refining his skills and improving his nutrition habits. Focusing on speed and strength to test the best he can at the Combine, Morgan is fortunate to have this opportunity coming from a smaller school.
Morgan thrives on being prepared even to the point he called the Shrine Game before arriving to get a copy of the playbook so he could study it before arriving. The attention to detail is something Morgan takes with him every day, focusing his attention to the Combine.
"It's awesome," Morgan said of preparing. "It's a great opportunity for me to be able to go out. I think, with everything with these offseason pre-draft events. Shrine game, Combine it's a chance that's great for somebody like me coming from a smaller school to be able to go out there and show that I can compete and be able to have the NFL skill set and throw the ball around with the great competition."
With the NFL Combine on the horizon and an FIU Pro Day on April 1st, Morgan is going to have an opportunity to put that football in his hand in front of NFL teams to take a closer look at him. "The Duke" that Morgan once had in his room as a reminder of what his goals were is now set to be his best friend in his most important job interview.
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