Mr. Morgan: From the NFL to Brentwood High School

Brian Delgado, Staff Writer

Did you know that there’s a former professional athlete roaming our high school every day? Mr. Morgan is a math teacher from the Ross building, but before teaching the students of Brentwood, he once played in the National Football League. The Pow Wow interviewed Mr. Morgan to learn more about his journey from the gridiron to the halls of Brentwood High School.  

Q: What made you choose the gridiron? 

A: When I was younger, sports and athletics were always my way of fitting in. I moved several times as a child and sometimes had difficulty finding friends because I was so quiet. I’d meet the majority of my friends through gym and other games when they’d pick me for their team. I was a “ringer” in a sense because no one expected anything from the quiet kid. I’d play pick-up football games with my friends and was a pretty good receiver.   

Q: As a kid, did you ever imagine you’d make it as far as you did?  

A: I’ve always had the desire in my heart to be a professional athlete, but the choice of football was finalized when I saw Remember the Titans. I was astonished by how people could be unified through sports; how societal differences could be set aside for the accomplishment of a higher objective. To say I knew I was going to make it at every point of my journey would be a lie. I never wanted to look back and say I could’ve been better. I had every intent on getting there regardless of what anyone said.   

Q: What aspect of football did you love the most? 

A:  I loved the aggression of the sport and the constant adrenaline rush. Football was a release of all the pent-up emotions that I couldn’t get out in the real world. I didn’t have the toolkit to deal with my thoughts of anger and the lingering emotions that derive from the trauma I’ve experienced in my life. The gridiron was my therapy.   

Q: What set you apart from others both on and off the field? 

A: Work ethic and character. I wasn’t the fastest, strongest, or biggest; but I will out-work you. There was a student who had a full ride to Syracuse (Division I) his junior year, but lost his scholarship because his senior year was terrible. After high school, he went to AIC (Division II) and never finished his degree. I saw the lack of effort and decided that I saw where I can win at. There’s no traffic on the extra mile. I’d stay after practice 1-2 hours working on my routes with my best friend who I’d later go to Albany with. Summers were spent working a job and training daily. Off-season was spent either in the gym or running track. Revert to an earlier question, “I never wanted to look back and say I could’ve done better.”   

Q: When you were in college, how hard was it to balance school and football? 

A: The biggest challenge I had at the time was that I changed my major from Physics to Actuarial Science after the first year. I pulled an all-nighter on my homework and had 6:00 am runs in the morning. I never quite balanced that part.   

Q: How would you describe yourself as a player? 

A: I’d say I’m relentless and a perfectionist. I know I’m not the tallest, strongest, or fastest. I can be the smartest and the hardest working. I had a way of always being around the ball.  

Q: How did you find out you were going to the league?  

A: I was at my agent’s house in Michigan on draft day. I was told that I could possibly get picked up in the later rounds of the draft, or as a free agent. I recollect the draft ending, and my name not being called. I was nervous because my agent said things will happen fast. Ten minutes later, the calls come in, one being Detroit. They offered the most as a signing bonus, so my decision was made.   

Q: What was your welcome to the NFL moment?  

A: First inside run drill full pads. Very first play was an ISO. I met the fullback in the hole and WHAM! lights temporarily go out, and all I thought was, “Man, this dude is strong,” as I got pushed back. I didn’t even realize a pulling lineman had been helping him out until I watched the film later. I don’t know how I finished that practice but I racked up two tackles in the “young guns” scrimmage at the end. My head was hurting so bad, I had to throw up my sub at lunch. Looking back, I can’t believe some of the things I’ve done. 

Q: What did you do with your first paycheck? 

A:  With my signing bonus, I bought some suits and formal clothing since I was a “professional” now. I also used some of it for a tooth implant because I had a cavity removed my last year of college. I was really looking like Captain Morgan. When I was waived/injured, I invested part of that check into a life insurance policy.  

Q: Did you experience setbacks in your athletic career? 

A: My Redshirt Junior year, I tore my MCL and PCL during a Spring Ball scrimmage. This was after I was getting NFL recognition, so time was not on my side. With one year left, this had to be the show out year. I spent the summer at Albany working two jobs, training and rehabbing my knee. I was so stressed, I contracted shingles at only 22. That’s the chicken pox virus re-emerging due to stress. Usually you don’t get them until you’re in your later years of adulthood.    

Q: What would you say was your favorite moment in the NFL? 

A: My favorite moment was my last preseason game in Buffalo. Although that was the game I was injured, something else made that moment magical. My mom, uncles, girlfriend, and friends from college were in attendance. Getting my mother to her first NFL game ever where she can watch her son play, was probably my greatest accomplishment in life up until that point. I felt that was the ultimate win for a parent.   

Q: Did you have a mentor either in college or in Detroit? 

A: In college, I can’t say I had a mentor. I had two young brothers who were great coaches that held me to an extremely high standard at all times. They helped me remain humble, while simultaneously inspiring me with their work ethic. One would tell me the same word before every game my senior year, “consistency.” I didn’t understand the meaning until years later.   

In Detroit, I had my agent as a mentor. Doc was an old school type of guy, who had been a Vietnam War veteran. Although he was hardened and from a different generation, he was a good man. His word was bond, and if you were on his team, he would fight for you ‘til the death. You don’t meet many people in life like that.   

Q: What was your routine in the NFL?  

A: In camp: Get to facility by 6 a.m.; Breakfast and treatment and/or hot pool until about 7 am; Team meeting, special teams, defense, then individual meetings until about 9-10 a.m.; Walk-through; Lunch around 12/1 p.m.; Tape/Hot pool/Stretching pre-practice; Practice 3-5 p.m.; post-practice ice bath/treatment, Dinner 6 p.m.; Meetings after until about 9 p.m.; Study playbook & film; Sleep 10/11 p.m.. Sounds fun, right?   

Q: The NFL is obviously difficult but what would you say was the hardest part? 

A: It’s high-performance at all times. “It’s ok to make a mistake, just don’t make the same mistake twice.” I didn’t try to make friendships because I didn’t like how they would cycle players in and out. There’s a joke that the NFL stands for “Not For Long.” 

Q: What was one important lesson you learned in the NFL? 

A: Being a 23-year-old surrounded by millionaires makes you see things from a different lens. I learned how a multi-billion dollar business works. I learned how to perfect my craft. How to always move as if someone’s watching you, because they are now. I can go on and on forever; so I suppose the best thing I received from the league was an education on how high stakes business works.   

 Q: What one thing you would tell young athletes who are trying to get where you did? 

A: Be the hardest worker, put in the most effort, set goals and stick to them. You have to begin by believing in yourself, because there will be times of doubt. The confidence comes from the work you put in. Remember, there’s a kid down South right now or on the West Coast, who’s been doing this since he was five; training all year round; putting in one extra rep on every set. And this may be his only way out. How are you going to perform when you meet him?   

Q: What led you to teach?  

A: At first, coaching was the easiest way to stay in touch with my passion by passing it to the next generation. Every day in the NFL was a gift. I always told myself, “Whatever I learn here, I’m passing onto my people to give them a better chance than I did.” Plus, I have more patience for children than I do adults. You can forgive a child when they do wrong, they don’t know any better. Adults do.  

Q: Why teach math and not another subject?  

A: I like numbers because it either is or it isn’t. There’s no room for subjective judgement. Same thing on the field I suppose. You either win or you lose when the clock hits 0. My mother majored in mathematics when she was in college, so maybe that’s where I get it from. I had a natural gift for numbers so I pursued majors revolving around them in college. Another thing that people don’t realize, is how much math is in football. “A game of inches” they say. Well inches are units of measurement. Every play I have to know down and distance (ex: 2nd and 6), Personnel (ex: 10, 11, 20), know where the imbalance of passing threats are, and set the run strength to where I see the biggest imbalance with lineman. A presentation by a banker when in the NFL introduced me to the world of financial mathematics. It gets more interesting when you learn how to make calculations that directly benefit your livelihood. All in all, rhythm, frequency, money, geometry, astrology, astronomy all derive from the mathematics of the universe around us.   

Q: What do you think it takes to make it to where you did? 

A: Consistency. If you don’t sacrifice for your goals, your goals become the sacrifice. Most people talk about it, but aren’t willing to put in the work to get there. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule says that you have to put 10,000 hours into a craft to be considered an expert. The takeaway being, success doesn’t come by accident. Study the greats in everything you do. Whatever a man has done, a man can do.  Make your craft your obsession—and even when it seems dark out, keep pushing forward. There will be times of doubt and hardship, but that’s building you into the person you need to be to get where you need to go. Maybe you’re not ready yet. Be humble, or else the universe will humble you if no one else does. And most of all, believe in yourself even when others don’t. Let your work do the talking, not your mouth.