Despite growing up in Salt Lake City and starring at Brighton High School, Mike Morgan never imagined he would play for the Brigham Young Cougars. Being thrust into the lineup as a freshman in 1979 was, in a word, “SCARY!”
Morgan found his way to BYU when Utah didn’t bother to recruit him. He redshirted the 1978 season. Going into 1979, Morgan wasn’t expected to be a big part of the Cougars’ defensive front. All but one defensive lineman (starters and back ups) from 1978 returned for 1979. When BYU took the field against Texas A&M in the season opener, Morgan was not one of the 11 starters.
That didn’t last very long.
When Danny Frazier broke his neck, the BYU coaches called Morgan’s name. All of a sudden, Morgan found himself lining up against players from one of the top teams in the country. While he was scared at the time, he can now claim to have played a role in what was then the school’s biggest win. Led by a strong defensive effort, BYU shocked the Aggies, 18-17.
Having survived his first major test, Morgan “just wanted to blend in and not say a word.” He was still 18 and his goal for the year was to “fit in and not embarrass myself.” Defensive co-captain John Neal would have none of that. In the next team meeting, Neal made it a point to call out Morgan and make it clear that if he was going to be a starter, then he needed to take ownership of his position. Morgan would have to be a leader and verbally express himself in team meetings.
Morgan quickly figured out how to fit in and became a leader on the field. In game four against Hawaii, he had three tackles, one sack, and recovered a fumble. He followed that up the next week by contributing a key sack against Utah State.
In back-to-back games, Morgan was named defensive lineman of the New Mexico game and made eight tackles against Colorado State.
BYU’s 27-0 win over Utah to improve to 10-0 was especially pleasing for Morgan.
One of Morgan’s greatest concerns as a freshman was living up to the high expectations that already existed in the BYU football program. Wearing the Cougar blue and white, Morgan “felt a very strong commitment and awareness to participate at a very high level and that nothing else would be accepted.”
Morgan’s playing time was limited during the year with neck injuries of his own. That didn’t stop him, however, from earning honorable mention All-WAC honors and finishing seventh on the team in tackles, second in sacks, and fourth in quarterback hurries.
In year one, Morgan lived up to all that was expected of him, and he set a new standard for freshmen at BYU.
Why number 5?
As a defensive lineman, and with limited playing time, Morgan amassed 52 tackles. He was a great pass rusher with 7 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries. These totals are good, even for a senior.
Why not higher?
Four other BYU freshmen have had better seasons. There really is no other way to put it. It is hard to criticize what Morgan did as a freshman. The only way to move up the list would be to have more tackles, sacks, etc., but that is true for everyone.
Breakout game: Hawaii (game 4)
Best game: Colorado State (game 8)
52 Tackles, 7 Sacks, 2 Tackles-for-loss, 10 Quarterback hurries, 2 Fumble recoveries
Top 10 BYU Freshmen
10. Cody Hoffman, 2010
9. Greg Pitts, 1991
8. Jamal Willis, 1991
7. Luke Staley, 1999
6. David Nixon, 2003
5. Mike Morgan, 1979
4. Austin Collie, 2004
3. Randy Brock, 1991
2. Ronney Jenkins, 1996
1. Harvey Unga, 2007
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