Dynamic Morgan fond of his days in orange
Growing up, the love and passion that Stanley Morgan had for the game of football shined like his game underneath the Friday night lights in Easley, South Carolina. During his stellar and decorated prep career, Morgan was the ultimate playmaker. It all culminated in a final season that left no doubt about who the best team in the Palmetto state was.
"My senior year was the best year that Easley high had," Morgan said. "We had senior football team. We had a great team and we had been together since junior high. We won the state championship and were ranked the #1 team in the state of South Carolina. Everyone supported us and it was such a cool experience. Even when we had an away game, it was like a home game because the town shut down. Our coach was Larry Bagwell and he was a great coach. You couldn't have written a script that good."
Morgan heard from several different schools and had no particular lean, but did have one goal and wanted to attend the school that would give him the best chance to achieve that goal.
"Coming out I had one goal and that was to get to the NFL," Morgan said. "I was trying to get there and back in 1973, Clemson was right in my backyard and South Carolina was not far away. The ACC was more of a basketball league and I wanted to go to a school that would help me achieve my goal. Tennessee was close enough for my family to come see me play and it just made sense. Tennessee was known for it's football and was the right choice."
During his freshman season in 1973, the explosive and cat-quick Morgan caught 22 passes for 522 yards with 4 touchdowns. It was during that season, that then Tennessee coach Bill Battle decided that Morgan needed the ball in his hands more and wanted to move him to running back. A decision that almost caused Morgan to leave Rocky Top even though he loved the orange and white.
"The greatest thing I remember was running through the T," Morgan said. "There was nothing more powerful than that. I played wide receiver my first year and then coach Battle and the staff thought I'd get the ball more as a running back. I didn't want to play tailback and I almost left but I stayed and hung in there. I just felt like I was too little to do it. I always thought of myself as a wide receiver."
In that '74 season, the Vols were creative in their efforts to get Morgan the ball. He had 128 carries for 723 yards with 11 touchdowns and caught 10 passes for 234 yards with 2 touchdowns.
Those first two years featured a great backfield with Morgan and quarterback Condredge Holloway and it's relationship that has stood the test of time.
"I had a great time at Tennessee," Morgan said. "Condredge came along and he was ahead of the curve when he got there. He was one hell of a quarterback. He was ahead of his time and if you can see Michael Vick play, then you would know Condredge was the better quarterback."
Holloway remember fondly his friend and teammate and calls him one of the best.
"Stanley was the best all purpose receiver I played with during my time at Tennessee," Holloway said. "Fifteen yards per catch for 15 years is a fantastic accomplishment, especially in the NFL."
Following the 1976 season, Morgan was selected in the 1st round of the 1977 NFL Draft by New England. There was no question where he would play in the league and his ability at wide receiver shined like never before.
"It was second nature when I got to the league," Morgan said. "I had to get in and out of my breaks a lot quicker in the NFL and that was the biggest adjustment I had to make. I had the speed to play the position and I was too little to play anything else. If I couldn't be a receiver then I would have went over and played safety. I'm just so happy I got the chance to play receiver and it paid off."
Morgan helped the Patriots win the AFC in 1985 and caught six passes for 51 yards in Super Bowl XX.
After his lengthy stint with the Patriots, Morgan returned to the south and now lives in Memphis. He tries to make it to Knoxville as much as possible and his passion for the Power T has only grown in recent years.
"We put homecoming on our calendar every year," Morgan said. "We also put on the Alex Haley golf tournament where we raise money for Tennessee scholarships. My wife started it and brought me on board. We've been doing it for 13 years. I love getting back up to Knoxville and enjoy interacting with the fans. I love Tennessee and I love Tennessee sports. I never thought I would put on orange again because when I left I didn't want to wear orange because I had it on so much during my four years. Now I have a closet full of orange."
His two fondest memories in the orange and white came against his home state team, the Clemson Tigers. Both games resulted in Tennessee wins. He will always have the memories on the football field, but college is where he met his wife Rholedia and where he learned so many life lessons.
"It was a great place for me because I had to grow up," Morgan said. "I was the oldest in my family and I had to make my own decision and depend on my mom. I met my future wife there and my first born was born right there in Knoxville. Tennessee was a great experience for me. I wish I was there now with them throwing the ball more. We didn't throw it as much when I was there."
Stanley has taken notice of the "legacy" players on campus and with a grandson of his own now, Vol fans can only hope to see another legacy (Marcus Sanitra Jr.) many years down the line.