By Randy York, The N-Sider
Some believe the best leaders are those barely known until the work is finished. Others say leaders define reality so they can translate vision into results without fanfare. Still others believe that leaders teach by example with the confidence, perseverance and work ethic that screams role model without saying much.
However you choose to describe leadership, understand this – Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska’s soon-to-be junior wide receiver, fits all three definitions and is fully equipped to be a powerful, prevailing and potent leader for the Huskers’ 2017 football team.
Morgan is the Huskers’ man for all seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall. He does it all as a proven, prepared man on a mission. That is especially true this spring after Nebraska lost four of its last six games following its 7-0 start in 2016.
With Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore exiting stage left to pursue NFL dreams, the spotlight focuses on Morgan, a talented force who is eager and excited to blaze a trail that can help the Huskers’ passing game flourish, regardless of who emerges as the heir apparent to record-setting quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr.
“I try to go every day like it’s my last time to practice or my last time to play a game,” Morgan told me. “I have to get a lot of things done this year that I just didn’t get done last year. I want to make every grab I can. I want to give my best every day. I want to do everything right every minute of every week that I am out there.”
Lifting Weights Creates a Good Vibe for Morgan, Who Wants to Look Amazed
“I want to help my teammates feel the same way,” Morgan added. “I like to look amazed at whatever I’m asked to do. I am getting better lifting weights. I go into that room every day with a good vibe. It’s a big part of getting better, so I put everything I can into it.”
Morgan’s diligence and willingness to take lifting to another level has paid dramatic dividends. “I definitely feel like I’m stronger and quicker now than I ever was,” he said. “I grew up with the mentality that if you’re going to do it, do it hard, so you have no excuses. You have to be ready for whatever you decide you have to do.”
Nebraska strength and conditioning coach Mark Philipp (pictured above) says Morgan is leading by example. “I’m just so happy for Stanley,” Philipp told me. “He’s a vocal guy and has so much energy. He has done a great job in the weight room. He has definitely held his own this winter. It was noticeable…no question. He’s a player who always contributes to the team to the best of his ability. That helps Stanley bring the rest of the receivers right along with him. He is truly unselfish in everything he does. I love that kid.”
So does Danny Langsdorf, Nebraska’s offensive coordinator. “Stan is a dedicated player and a great worker,” Langsdorf told me. “He cares a ton about being good. Watching him work in the off-season program and at practice, you can see his constant drive to improve. He is quiet but leads by example and work ethic. He’s great to coach.”
Williams: Stanley Knows Everything That’s Happening On and Off the Field
Nebraska wide receivers coach Keith Williams (pictured above) agrees. “Some guys have a natural mindset to focus on aggressive variables, so they can get the most out of it, whether you’re watching film or attempting to do whatever you need,” Williams said. “Stanley is a guy who knows everything that’s happening on and off the field. It comes natural for him. His mother raised him right in New Orleans.”
Morgan played for St. Augustine High School. “Every region has its own identities and different aspects,” Williams said. “When I was at Tulane for three years, I saw what New Orleans had. It is different, especially St. Augustine. Working hard every day all year long is the way those guys breathe out there.”
Stanley’s high school has tradition and historic roots “that have created and developed many D-1 players and NFL players,” Williams said. “Their competitiveness, drive and motivation is based on being the absolute best you can be every day in practice. He did that in high school, so he understands the necessity.”
Morgan understands “everything that’s going on,” Williams said. “He recognizes that some of our wide receivers aren’t here now and knows they have the room.”
The translation? “Stan has come to that point in his career where he is now the person you look up to,” Williams said. “With that understanding, he has to get the other young guys involved with the team at the highest level.”
In the Ninth Grade at St. Augustine, Morgan Played against the Nation's Best
Making one of his five game-high receptions above at Wisconsin, Morgan is uniquely equipped to succeed. “He competed with great players in every class at St. Augustine, even when he was in ninth grade,” Williams said. “He learned from all of them and now it’s time for others to learn from Stan. It’s in his background, what he did and the way he thinks. That’s all a good thing.”
Williams stops immediately in his own thoughts to change a word. “It’s not just a good thing; it’s a great thing,” he said, “because Stan leads by example. As coaches, you always want your older guys to help your younger guys become leaders. That’s why coaches and teammates count on your most experienced players.”
In Stanly Morgan’s case, “It’s like getting 2-for-1,” Williams said. “Stan is definitely prepared to catch passes from our quarterbacks who redshirted. They have been here and have thrown to Stan. It is not a brand-new feel and it will be a smooth move.”
Why? “Because Stan’s a man now,” Williams said.
Morgan’s goal is “to have the same mentality every day this spring,” he said. “We’re all excited and come to practice every day to get better. I always try to do everything right because someone is always watching.”
Morgan Had a Front-Row Seat to Watch Jordan Westerkamp Work His Magic
The limelight does not deter a junior-to-be who has learned the essence of leadership from one of Nebraska’s greatest wide receivers. “You learn from guys like Westy (Jordan Westerkamp, pictured above),” Morgan told me. “That guy is what everyone wants to be. People watch him. He’s always ready to do what’s right. He learned that in high school.
“That’s why everyone wants to follow in Westy’s footsteps,” Morgan said. “He lived by his priorities every day. He’s always on time and always getting better. He’s always checking his notebook. He just does everything right. That’s why he’s kind of the guy you always look up to.
“He was a leader in the locker room, a leader on the field and a leader off the field,” Morgan said. “Westy set a good example for all of us. He left a legacy that all of us should try to follow every day that we’re here. He was great on the field, but he was just as great in everything he did off the field. I don’t know how anyone can wear those kinds of shoes, but he motivates all us to try to set the same kind of example for others.”
Westerkamp fueled his teammates’ desire to do the right things. “I see what he was thinking now – that everybody can lead by example,” Morgan said. “Westy showed all of us how he liked to do everything right all the time, and he influenced the rest of us to take the same approach.
“I loved the way Westy looked at the game and made himself and the team better," Morgan said. "My mom knows the kind of drive I had growing up, but I see it getting stronger every year. I love the game, and I hope we all have the same mindset this year."
Morgan Jr.: We’re All Pushing Ourselves to Go Beyond Where We’ve Been
“We’re all pushing ourselves to go beyond where we’ve been,” said Morgan (catching a pass against Ohio State above). “I know this. Everybody is working hard to help us get to that next level that we didn’t get to last year. The vibes are going around in the weight room, on the field and in the classroom. We are all trying to get where we need to be.
“I think our offense and our defense knows how much better we need to get. You can sense it. At the end of the day, it’s about constant improvement. Football can be simple if you decide how you want to do it. It’s not about me. It’s about our teammates and how we all make each other better giving everything we have in us. We’re all brothers on this team, and we should all help each other get better and better day by day.”
Nebraska’s spring football practices began Saturday. “It’s exciting,” Morgan said. “We all feel that we have a little extra juice in us. We want great spring practices and a great Spring Game, so we can go into the summer better prepared. We will work on everything we need so that it continues to help us be better in the fall.”
The seeds for development, improvement and growth are all woven into the process. “I’ve worked hard in the weight room and feel like I’ve gotten a little faster,” Morgan said. “We all want to focus on what we need to start and finish the season well. A lot of it is on mechanics, and I’m like everyone else on this team – we need to get better…every single one of us.”
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