MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Last month, Tanner Morgan lost his closest confidant and his biggest fan.
The fourth-year Minnesota quarterback found plenty of it among his coaches and teammates, as if he had any doubts about the depth of their connection.
Morgan’s father, Ted, died in July of brain cancer.
“That’s what my dad would like me to do right now. He wants me to be in training camp ready to go and excited to play football again, ”Morgan said recently. “Anyone can talk about a family, a culture or whatever, because every team has a different one. Ours is obviously very unique, but when you experience it through personal loss, personal trials, I think it really hits more deeply how close it really is.
Morgan’s courage, leadership, and maturity in high school in Kentucky prompted Gophers coach PJ Fleck to recruit him first from Western Michigan and then persuade him to follow him to Minnesota once he got over. ‘he will have accepted this position in 2017.
The way Morgan handled the ups and downs of his father’s illness in the 14 months until his death only cemented the admiration that exists for him within this tight-knit program.
Ted Morgan, as Fleck put it, was the father of “almost everyone” on the team. Receiver Chris Autman-Bell said, “We talked to him all the time. He gave advice and shared love and nothing but passion. He was a great guy.
About a year ago, as Ted Morgan’s recovery from surgery and disease control was going relatively well, he was thrilled to receive a package from Minnesota with handwritten notes of encouragement of over 100 Gophers coaches and players.
“I’ve never seen a family member die and see a team cry as much as they did for Tanner’s father. I think it shows Tanner’s impact, ”Fleck said.
Morgan learned a lot about football from his father, but the lessons of life and faith had the biggest impact. Their devout and humble Christian beliefs were evident in the moving tribute Morgan posted on social media when his father passed away – and remain clear now. Morgan cited his gratitude to God, his family, his teammates and the college at the start of preseason camp when he spoke to reporters about overcoming the heartbreak.
“That’s what brings me joy through it and what gets me through,” he said.
Morgan is 18-8 as a starter, ranking in the top 10 in most categories for success on the program’s all-time list. He has ample opportunity to move up the standings with a season more similar to the 11-2 record the Gophers posted in 2019 and less than the 3-4 mark they had during a schedule altered by the pandemic.
Morgan, who was a 2019 All-Big Ten second-team selection, said last week he’s had more fun in summer practice this month than at any time in his career. .
He’s not a scrambling quarterback, but in a system that uses a lot of passing options play he has to be nimble, so he’s focused on improving his speed in the offseason. Pointing to the sleep tracker he wears on his wrist, Morgan has also become more aware of the health of the whole body, seeking any additional benefits he can for what could be his final year in college. .
If the Gophers have a legitimate shot at beating a team like Ohio State, it should be this year, with Morgan at the helm behind an extra-experienced offensive line and Mo Ibrahim – a preseason second Associated Press All-America. – team choice – to run next to him. The Gophers welcome the Buckeyes, ranked fourth Thursday night, to open the season.
“He’s a wonderful person, an elite leader, and he’s improved in the offseason,” said Fleck. “He’s got that competitive spirit, that competitive greatness that you want to be able to see in every area of his life that has to rub off on our entire team, which he does. I’m just proud of the progress he’s made on and off the pitch.
More AP College Football coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/College-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25