NEWPORT – Arkansas Baptist College sophomore linebacker Thamail Morgan – the state's all-time career leading high school tackler - is just looking for one more chance and this time he vows not to let it slip from his fingers.
"I have grown up, I am focused and I just want to play Division I college football, hopefully in my state where my friends and family and those that have been so supportive of me can come see me," Morgan said. "I have matured, I have put in the work and I am working to have a great season."
Once upon a time, Morgan (6-0, 203) was one of the best high school football players in the state, a stud junior linebacker from Newport that had Arkansas, Florida State, Ole Miss and others recruiting him.
He was living the dream, having an amazing 234 tackles as a sophomore, 172 tackles (including 22 sacks) as a junior and seemed destined for Division 1 stardom as college coaches loved what they saw.
But some off-field issues saw those big-time schools disappear, his chance to play at tradition-rich Newport over and Morgan transferring to Cave City, where he got a second chance with a program that had just started.
He flourished as a Caveman, even ending up becoming a national story and getting a 10-minute story on CBS before the Super Bowl about an act of sportsmanship his senior season.
That was when he took a kickoff, broke several tackles and appeared headed into the end zone late in a game that Cave City was routing Yellville-Summitt.
But he stopped at the 2-yard line, backed up the 5 and took a knee to honor Yellville-Summit player Kymball Duffy, who had died a week earlier in a car accident on Sept. 11, 2009.
"It just came to me and seem liked the right thing to do," Morgan said. "I had no idea it would get as big as it did. I just felt for the other team."
Morgan, who is on pace to graduate in December, would end his remarkably productive high school career with 567 career tackles, a state record.
He got offers from Alcorn State and Memphis, but did not have the grades to get into those schools and ended up signing with Ouachita Baptist.
He would instead matriculate to Northwest Mississippi College as just a student and then on to Arkansas Baptist, a junior college whose football program is still in its infancy.
Morgan played just five games as a freshman for the Buffaloes before injuring his hamstring.
He had 23 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass break-up in his shortened true freshman season.
"I have enjoyed my time at Arkansas Baptist and it's been fun to grow with a new program, just like I did at Cave City," Morgan said. "It's kind of an underdog story."
Morgan, whose team opens its season August 25th against Navarro College in Little Rock, will have three years to play three once he lands at his next stop.
"I've still got a lot of football ahead of me," Morgan said.
He admits that despite his publicity as a senior, recruiting and getting his name back out there has been tough.
"Recruiting has been hard," Morgan said. "I think people have forgot about me and it is up to me to go out and have a great season and play myself into a scholarship."
He has a strong desire to stay in-state and play his college football and hopes that ends up happening.
"I want to play in Fayetteville for the Razorbacks, but I would also love to play for Arkansas State if I get the chance," Morgan said. "I will commit on the spot if either of those programs offer me."
He also admits that he would love to play for UCA or Ouachita, who gave him a chance back in the day.
Arkansas State and UCA have expressed interest.
"I just want to work so hard and make people proud of me," Morgan said. "I'd like to think this is going to be my year."
Morgan says that Arkansas Baptist is scheduled to scrimmage another junior college in August at Razorback Stadium for the second straight year.
"That will be fun, but the way I want this story to end would be to play there for real for the Razorbacks," Morgan said. "I am going to keep pushing for that."
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