Morgan Claims Starting Job To Fulfill A Dream

RALEIGH, N.C. -- DeAndre Morgan wasn't sure what to expect when he came to practice on the Sunday following the Clemson game on September 22.

After seeing his first extensive action against the Tigers, a couple of Wolfpack assistants pulled him aside, told him that he had done a good job and to keep working hard, because good things could be coming.

When he walked into the meeting room and saw his name listed as the starter at cornerback, he wasn't quite ready to believe it. But when practice began and he was placed as the first-stringer, Morgan knew that his time had finally come.

"I was just like, ‘Wow, my dream is really coming true now,'" Morgan said. "So that's really good for me as a redshirt freshman to come in and start like the fifth or sixth game of the season. I was just looking to contribute to the team wherever I'm needed, and I'm fortunate I was just able to get in real early. So I'm just looking to hold my spot, keep competing hard and playing wherever they need me on the field."

Fooling someone into thinking they're a starter when they really weren't might be something a brother would do. But Morgan knew that older brother DaJuan, the Pack's starting safety, wouldn't pull such a prank – and wouldn't let anyone else do it, either. After all, it was DaJuan who had kept his younger brother's spirits up through all of 2006, when DeAndre had to sit out the entire campaign as a redshirt.

DaJuan made little bro stay after practice, working on technique against NC State wideouts. DeAndre had played his career at Suncoast High School in Riviera Beach, Fla., as a safety, only playing cornerback during scouting combines. As a result, he had a lot to learn, and that process continued when he returned home to Florida, where he practiced against brother Darren Haliburton, a former wide receiver at South Florida.

"So I just had to do a lot of stuff on my own," said Morgan, "and then use the coaching and everything as well to get to where I'm at right now."

Where he is now is entrenched as one of State's starting cornerbacks – making his older brother proud.

"He said, ‘I know you can do it little brother, you have the potential and the heart, the desire to get better,'" Morgan said. "So he told me, ‘Don't change [anything] that you do. Just go out there and play. Don't worry about the crowd … just use your technique and let the game come to you. ‘And that's what I did, and I think that I did a pretty good job [against Louisville]."

According to NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer, Morgan did better than "pretty good" against the high-powered Cardinals offense and Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Brian Brohm. Morgan is listed at only 5-10, 166 pounds, but despite going against bigger Louisville receivers, he more than held his own. Archer said Morgan only gave up two plays – a crossing route where he was slightly picked and another play – and was a standout performer on Saturday.

"I told him after the game [that] without looking at the film, I thought he played as good as anybody," said Archer. "And after looking at the film, I think he played better than anybody on our defense."

However, based on Morgan's work ethic and effort in practices, Archer was less than surprised at the youngster's strong play.

"I kind of anticipated it, because at the beginning of the week, I never had to really comment on him when I watched the film," said Archer. "On Thursday night, we were watching the tape after all week's practice, and I said, ‘You know, this kid is going to play good, because we really haven't had to correct anything. And he played the same way he practiced. We've got to get the rest of our guys to do that."

So the Morgan Brothers now make up one-half of the Wolfpack secondary. That's a fact that even Archer finds hard to believe – or notice.

"Well, you know, it's funny, I didn't even think about that until I went in and talked to the people from ESPNU [prior to the Louisville game]," Archer said. "They asked me who was going to start, and I said, ‘DeAndre Morgan is going to start his first game at corner,' and I go to DaJuan and they said, ‘Are they brothers?' And I went, ‘Oh yeah, they are.' I hadn't even thought of it.

"I'm sure it's special for them, and they both played very well. DaJuan has played well for us all year and DeAndre has really stepped up his game, and I'm really excited about him because he's young and he's only going to get better."

But no matter how well they play or whether State wins or loses, DaJuan and DeAndre have made at least one fan for life.

"It means a whole lot [to start alongside DaJuan]," said Morgan, smiling. "We kept it away from my mom, because we didn't let her know I was starting, but we told everybody else. So when she got to the game and [saw] our names up on the screen, she said she just broke down in tears and started crying, because me and my brother, we've been through a lot.

"We always played on the same team, but we were never on the field at the same time. And to come in in college, a Division I big-time program, that was just a real honor. It was nice … I can't explain the feeling."

A familiar face will be across the field on the opposing sidelines on Saturday in Tallahassee – former coach Chuck Amato. While that storyline will be beaten to death all week long and throughout the game, DeAndre Morgan won't be paying too much attention.

"It's going to be nice to see him, but people ask me a lot, are we mad that he's gone?" said Morgan. "But I looked at it like I never played for him, so I have nothing against him or anything like that. But I really don't know what type of coach he is, because I never played under him.

"I'm just ready to play. I'm glad Coach [Tom] O'Brien is here now. We have to get things on track, but I'm just looking to go out and play and continue to try and be successful in everything that I do."

In his return to Florida, Morgan will be squaring off against a lot of familiar faces besides Amato. He played with Seminoles wideout Preston Parker and against Florida State running back Antone Smith. Morgan said he knows too many FSU players to mention, but did acknowledge how special it will be to return to his home state as a starter for the Wolfpack. And even in hostile territory, he'll have plenty of support in the stands.

"My whole family is coming down for this game, and some don't still know I'm starting," said Morgan before bursting into a grin, "but I'm pretty sure my mom will tell them about that."

The Pack's injury list has been long and painful throughout this difficult season, and more attrition was announced yesterday when O'Brien named three more players who have left the State program. Despite a lack of numbers and depth, however, the Wolfpack players are resolute in their desire to improve and push each other.

"You've just got to have a strong mind as a defensive player, and when you see guys go down, you just have to look at it as, ‘I'm stepping up and I've got to do my job to get the team better,'" said Morgan. "That's why I love for us to have competition at each position, as the backups. So if a corner goes down or we have one that comes out or anything like that, you want to be confident in that [backup] player.

"That's why we've got to go hard each and every day in practice and work your technique and everything like that. You never know when your time is going to come. Just like with me … when they called my number, I was ready."

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