DE Morgan a Keystone of Titans’ Defense
He may be an emerging force in The League, but don’t expect Tennessee Titan DE Derrick Morgan to Big League his hometown.
The Coatesville product has started the last 17 of Tennessee’s games after being selected with the 16th pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. The selection capped an All-American career at Georgia Tech.
In the last season and a half, Morgan has already broken up three passes and recorded 4 1/2 sacks, victimizing notables such as Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.
Yet despite the impressive resume, the former Red Raider standout litters the interview with references deferring to his team and using “blessed” when describing himself.
“I remember going 10-0 my sophomore year- that was a successful year,” Morgan recalled about his prep days. “My junior year, we went 11-1. That was also a successful year for us and that’s the thing that sticks out.”
Morgan was an excellent running back for Coatesville, rushing for a touchdown in each of the Red Raiders’ first three games during his senior year. That same Coatesville squad also surrendered just six points during that streak, thanks to Morgan anchoring the defense.
“I did like being on the defensive side, being able to make plays on that side of the ball and take people down,” Morgan remembered. “I kind of knew I would be on defense going into college.”
A first team All-State honoree, Morgan arguably was the greatest player to come out of one of the greatest programs in Pennsylvania high school football; Coatesville was one of the first 20 schools in the entire state to reach 600 wins. Recruiters noticed the Red Raiders’ talented defensive end and college ultimately took the form of Georgia Tech.
It might seem like an unconventional choice- Morgan was the only Pennsylvanian east of the Susquehanna on his freshman roster. “It had a lot to do with the recruiting class that I came in with and the chemistry we had. We had a lot of talented guys in our class who had done some successful things,” Morgan explained, “and I had the opportunity to play early.”
“Derrick was a player who got exponentially better each season on the Flats,” noted Rich Cirminiello of College Football News. “Even as he added weight, he didn’t lose the trademark burst or closing speed that made him one of the game’s best pass rushers in 2008 and 2009”
An All-American at Georgia Tech- Morgan rang up 12.5 sacks in 2009- resulted in the Titans’ selecting him in the first round after his junior year. Morgan had the size to play defensive end. As a junior, he was 6’3” and 266 pounds; he has since added a dozen pounds of muscle. His sub 4.80 40 time at the Draft Combine showed GMs that he had the speed to play outside linebacker if needed.
“It was pretty emotional and surreal,” Morgan described Draft Day. “It was a blessing to be up there and get drafted in the first round and to have experienced that. It was a great day since all of my family was able to be there.”
Draft Day is the greatest day of the football calendar. Everyone is all smiles and hand shakes. Every prospect is going to straight to Canton. Reality throws cold water in every rookie’s face really quickly.
“In college, you can sort of go out there and play. Things tend to happen. In the League, everyone is good so you have to focus a lot on your technique,” Morgan described the toughest part of switching from college to pro. “You start doing that so you can out-technique guys. It’s always about out-working people but everybody works hard. You try to focus on technique and get good at that.”
The first rounder had success in the pre-season, when a knee injury abruptly ended his rookie campaign four games into the season.
“I was able to sit back and re-evaluate some things like how to deal with adversity. It gave me the opportunity to learn how to treat my body a lot better,” Morgan revealed. “I’m not saying (the injury) was something I could have avoided, but I learned methods to keep my body strong and stay healthy. It was a lot of character building since I had never been hurt in my career. But I came out of it and was blessed to keep being able to play.”
The year without football forced Morgan to build character and be disciplined in his rehab. Yet even though he only had gotten a taste of the League, Morgan had confidence to know that he belonged.
“Going into my rookie year, I had some success going into the season. I wasn’t able to participate in the off-season program. In my first pre-season game, I was able to make some plays and it felt just like it was football,” Morgan replied, when asked when he knew he could succeed in the NFL. “It was good to get my confidence up and know that I could make plays at this level. That’s probably when I knew.”
With each Sunday, Morgan becomes more engrained in Tennessee and more disruptive to opposing passing games. Nashville earned its “Music City” moniker predominantly with the influence of Country. But through Morgan, Titan coach Mike Munchak is happy to add some Pennsylvania Polka to his defensive mix.
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