He's part Greyhound, part Caveman - but most certainly all about his second chance.
Thamail Morgan (6-1, 211, 4.5) – the former Newport and current Cave City prep football standout - was one of 40-plus recruits on hand Saturday night for the University of Arkansas' 63-27 beatdown of homecoming foe Eastern Michigan.
But the linebacker/safety prospect – who attended the game with his youth pastor - was perhaps the most appreciative of anyone there.
That's because there have been times in the last calendar year that Morgan thought his route to college might have been sidetracked by some off-the-field problems during and after his junior season.
"I thank God every day for looking out for me and blessing me with a second chance to get my life on track and for giving me a chance to put myself back in position to get a college education," Morgan said. "I have had some great people help me and I am not going to disappoint them or myself for that matter."
Morgan has arguably been one of - if not the - best defensive players in the state the past three seasons regardless of classification.
He burst on the scene at Newport as a sophomore with over 200 tackles and was named as the state's top defensive sophomore at the same time Little Rock Christian's Michael Dyer was being hailed as the top offensive one.
Morgan followed that up with 140-plus stops as a junior, but found himself ineligible to play at Newport following the aforementioned issues.
"I love Newport, I loved being a Greyhound and I know that I disappointed a lot of people – as I did myself – by not being able to finish playing there," Morgan said. "But I also am very thankful about how my teammates and my coaches and the fans at Cave City have welcomed me with open arms and help me get things back on the right track.
"To be honest with you, when I got out on the football field I take everything I learned from Newport for two years and everything I am learning from the coaches here now together to be the best player that I can be," Morgan said. "I consider myself to be part Greyhound and part Caveman."
Cave City was certainly happy to bring Morgan on board.
He has flourished on both offense – leading the team in receptions and yardage - and defense for the Cavemen.
Morgan has 123 tackles so far this season through nine games with 7 sacks and 20 tackles for lost yardage.
He's also forced a couple of fumbles – picking up one of them and running it back for a score.
Morgan has also picked off two passes and took one of those back to the house for six points.
"I think I have had a very good year, but it is in part because my teammates have played so well and helped me to make those plays," Morgan said. "I have great teammates and we have practiced and worked and played so hard together this season and had some great success."
Indeed Cave City is 8-1 this season and even got some national attention when Morgan chose to pay honor to Yellville-Summitt late in the two team's matchup on Sept. 11.
His foe's team had a player – Kymball Hunter - die in a car accident and although he could have scored late in the game, Morgan chose to just kneel in a gesture of sportsmanship and compassion.
"It's not something that I went into it thinking about, but as I am running the kickoff back, it came over me that this was the right thing to do," Morgan said. "It certainly wasn't to bring all the attention to myself that I got over it. I just felt for those guys on the other side."
He and his teammates had knelt with the Yellville-Summitt ream before the game, which ended up as a 34-16 win for Cave City.
"Before the game, we as a team talked about being classy," Morgan was quoted after as saying. "We did not want to come out in a game like this and not show any class. As I was running, some of my teammates told me not to score, and I knew that scoring was not the right thing to do."
After getting a highlight tape out of his first five games, Alcorn State and Memphis both stepped up to put scholarship offers on the table with any others – such as Arkansas – also showing renewed interest.
His initial offer from Alcorn State was a very emotional one for Morgan and his family.
"Oh, man that was such a special moment for me and my mom and dad," Morgan said. "Here I am wondering if I have screwed up and no one is going to give me a chance to go to college – which is the most important thing to me, not playing football. I want to better myself and I did college to do that and it just so happens that football is a way to do that.
"I thought maybe I'll get the chance to go to junior college or something like that, which is something I would gladly have done, but it's a bit of a let down after having schools like Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and all of those so interested in you and then just bam – it goes away.
"But when Alcorn State gave me that offer, it was just the most wonderful thing in the world," Morgan continued. "I knew right then I was going to get a chance and I was so very thankful."
Since then Memphis has also offered and Arkansas – among others – have been checking out his transcript.
An offer from the Razorbacks could be coming in the near future.
"I love the Razorbacks and that would be such a blessing, such an honor," Morgan said. "It's my home school that I grew up loving, it's in the SEC and it's where I would really like to play. But I have learned to take everything day-by-day. I hope it works out, but the best thing is I know that I am going to get to go to college somewhere and that is the most important thing."
Morgan has certainly let his faith guide him as evidenced by this quote to sports writer Brady Holzhauer.
"A lot of people go to church and just pretend, but I actually went to God and prayed, and he basically he put me with a group of people who want to help me," Morgan said. "It was either go back to my old ways and become a statistic or become a man and set myself apart from everyone else."
That is clearly what has happened according to Cave City head coach Jon Bradley, himself a Newport native and someone who is heading up a fourth-year program that was just 3-7 last season.
"He has just been great for us both on and off the field," Bradley said. "He has a great personality and really fit in well with our kids. He has definitely made the most of his second chance."
The Cavemen – who had 18 starters returning - also have another Division I recruit in tight end/defensive end Alan Wright (6-6, 290), who has offers from Arkansas State and UCA and is also being looked at by Arkansas.
"We were going to have a pretty good football team, but getting him just gave us another weapon and makes us that much better," Wright said. "He really came in and was ready to work and help make our team better and be a great teammate."
Cave City will play Earle on Thursday night in a game that is big for both teams.
"We play in a great conference – kind of like the SEC for high school in that there are so many good teams and so many great players," Morgan said. "Earle has got great athletes, Hoxie has a great team, Harrisburg is really good and Rivercrest is always a great team."
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