NWADG College Football


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7 NWA COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW | 8.29.2021 CLAY HENRY ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE Grant Morgan doesn't care about winning an award until he doesn't win it. That's the competitor that is the sixth- year Arkansas linebacker. He just hates to lose. That's why Morgan took it personally when he didn't win the Burlsworth Trophy last winter. It's the award given to the nation's top college player who began his career as a walk-on. Morgan was one of three finalists for the 2020 award. Most in Razorback Nation figured Morgan was a lock to win — until he didn't. When Pittsburgh's Jimmy Morrissey won it, it produced plenty of head- scratching throughout the fan base. There was finally a perfect candidate for the award and somehow they picked someone else. "If you look at both the other finalists, they were great players," Morgan said of Morrissey and BYU receiver Dax Milne. "Both of them got drafted (in the seventh round). So I can't say anything but good things about either one of them. But what that tells me is that if I had decided to pass up another year, I'd have been drafted, too." Clearly, it was a disappointment not to win the Burlsworth Trophy. "I don't really want any awards," he said. "My All-SEC and All-America awards are laying in the corner at my house. I don't want them put up. My wife, Sidney, made sure to have them sent to her. "But when I didn't win the Burlsworth Trophy, I hated it. It's not that I wanted it, but that I finished second at anything. I hate losing." That's Grant Morgan to a tee, according to Matt Morgan, his father. "The thing about Grant is that he is always true to himself," Matt said. "He doesn't change. He's going to do the right thing and he's going to play hard and tough. He's always been the same. "Off the field, he's probably going to step back when he sees someone headed in the right direction. He's going to stay in his correct path. He just does. "And, on the field, he's always going to give it everything he's got. He always has. That goes for his classroom work, too." When told his father said he "always stays true to himself," Grant didn't seem surprised. "He knows me," Grant said. "I guess how I explain that, I'm genuine. I'm true to myself. I don't fake it. "What you see is what you get. I'm the same to everyone. "I'm going to be the same to you in this interview as I am tomorrow when Michelle Obama interviews me. I'm certain of what I'm going to do whether it's football or outside of football." Grant credits his older brother Drew — a former Arkansas receiver — for helping him sort through right or wrong growing up. "Yes sir, and this is just another way having an older brother is good," he said. "I saw Drew get in trouble and how mad my dad got at him. I wasn't going to do the same things." Drew can be credited for giving Grant his tough side, too. His dad helped that, too. Toughness is a family trait. Grant's toughness became obvious in the first grade when he tagged along to play in a peewee league with fourth-grader Drew. Eventually, Grant scored a touchdown for the older boys. "It was a league in Lavaca," Matt said. "Grant just got thrown in with the older boys and he played." There was an infamous Oklahoma drill where Grant was told to tackle Drew. It's a nasty one-on-one drill with cones to form a lane. There is no dodging the tackler. It's going to be a collision. "Drew ran over him and it made Grant cry," Matt said. "Grant just popped back up and said, 'Let's do it again.' Drew just kept running over him. Grant kept getting up with tears in his eyes." Grant said that's exactly right, but lacked details. "I was mad," he said. "That's why I cry when I get mad. Or that's what I did back then. "The drill, you lay on your back and when you hear the whistle, you pop up and collide." Grant said his father left off part of the story. "My dad saw me crying and said, 'There is no crying in football, take a lap,' and when I got back I told him I wanted at Drew again," Grant said. "I wanted to show everyone I was tough. I think my dad knew then I was going to grow up to be tough. I didn't like getting my butt kicked by Drew." Grant promises there is no crying now, not even when you destroy elbow or knee ligaments. He came back from the elbow injury against Mississippi State, but not when he suffered a knee injury against Missouri. The story that circulated around the elbow injury is that doctors X-rayed it in Starkville to confirm there were no breaks. But when Grant returned to Fayetteville he declined to have an MRI. "That's true," he said. "It was swollen in Starkville so the doctor told me in the (injury) tent that I had to get it X-rayed. I said, 'No, just give me a brace.' I showed them I could move it so I was good to play." They X-rayed it anyway and found no fractures. "I told them when we got home I wasn't going to have an MRI," he said. "I'm pre-med and I understood what was going to happen. An MRI would find something and they would want to hold me out. "I was against that. I told them anything they found would not change the way I was going to play. It's not like I'm a baseball pitcher. What's it going to matter what the MRI looks like? I'm playing." Defensive coordinator Barry Odom notes that injuries come with the position. Only the tough survive. "You better have the toughness quality playing his position or you are not going to make it through the season," Odom said. "Grant is a tough competitor. It means something to him. "Every guy I've coached who has had success at that position, at some point gets hurt. There is injury at that position. It's the name of the game. He's going to get his body in such top physical condition that he can withstand playing 90 snaps a game and do that for 12 weeks. "Grant understands what the toll is, what that takes on your body. He shows great toughness and those traits are a lot of the reasons he has had success." See TOUGH, Page 8 "THE THING ABOUT GRANT IS THAT HE IS ALWAYS TRUE TO HIMSELF. HE DOESN'T CHANGE. HE'S GOING TO DO THE RIGHT THING AND HE'S GOING TO PLAY HARD AND TOUGH. HE'S ALWAYS BEEN THE SAME." MATT MORGAN FATHER OF GRANT MORGAN

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