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Newport linebacker Thamail Morgan (6-1, 180) – a likely strong safety in college and one of two 2010 D-I prospects on his squad - had 147 tackles as a sophomore last season and is nearing that number again this year.
He also knows what to do once he gets the football in his hands – as evidenced by his 81-yard fumble return late in the fourth quarter last week that proved to be the difference in the Greyhounds' 27-24 win over Bald Knob.
He also caught an 83-yard touchdown pass and had 14 tackles – including a whopping 5 sacks – to propel the Greyhounds (8-3) into the second-round Class 4A state playoff contest with Gravette (9-2).
"He's a phenomenal player, a phenomenal kid and a phenomenal athlete," Newport head coach Greg Brannon said. "He has that knack at the linebacker spot of finding the ball and arriving in a bad mood when he gets there."
The other Greyhound junior already drawing Division I attention is offensive lineman Wesley Grady (6-5, 308), but he was lost for the season due to a broken ankle suffered a few weeks ago.
"These guys get so much mail and I get a lot of calls," Brannon said. "They have a lot of big schools interested in them, but I think it would be great if they go to the University of Arkansas and stay in state."
Morgan broke the Newport school record with an unheard of 32 tackles last season in a game at Gosnell.
Those kind of numbers the last two seasons are why schools such as Arkansas, Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Oregon are among the teams showing interest.
"I am real interested in Arkansas," Morgan said. "I think Bobby Petrino is a great coach. I think he is working real well with all the young guys they have and in a few years they will be a great team."
In his team's 42-28 win over Trumann in the regular season finale, Morgan scored on a 76-yard kickoff return and also picked off an option pitch in the backfield and ran it back 57 yards for a touchdown.
"I am good at reading the plays," Morgan said. "I can get to the ball and a lot of times I can separate the guy from it. I also think I do a good job calling our defensive signals and getting our guys where they need to be."
What's amazing is that Morgan is up near 150 tackles again this season even though he rarely has a play ran his way.
"I feel like when I am in the game the whole offense focuses on me and they don't run the ball toward my side," Morgan said. "But to tell you the truth, that is making the whole defense a lot better. That put all the attention on me and that leaves the other guys open to make a play. I always seem to get there anyway to help finish things off."
Morgan says there are three things he is working on.
"I think I need to get more muscle mass, keep getting smart about the game, but most of all to always stay humble," Morgan said.
Brannon says Morgan is a great leader for his football team.
"He's always upbeat, always trying to be a leader and he always brings it whether it is a practice or a game," Brannon said.
Grady made it to Fayetteville for the Razorbacks' game with OIe Miss.
"I love the Razorbacks," Grady said. "That's all I ever talk about. I want to be a Hog."
His best game this season was against Valley View.
"I had 13 pancakes and graded out at 91 percent," Grady said.
It certainly is a big loss for Newport to not have Grady in the line-up.
"Not having him in the game has hurt us," Brannon said. "Look at him. He comes off the ball real well and that is what colleges are looking for. Kids his size that can come off the ball."
Grady is drawing recruiting interest from Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Duke and Clemson.
"He's a good kid, too – an outstanding kid," Brannon added. "It is a blessing to coach both of them."