When you consider all the great defensive players who attended the University of Miami, from Jerome Brown to Warren Sapp, from Ray Lewis to Jesse Armstead, it speaks volumes that Dan Morgan finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in tackles with 532.
“I don’t think one individual could do much more for a program than Danny has done,” Miami coach Butch Davis said. “He is a great player on game day and he has been a terrific role model for our younger players. He’s as physically gifted as anyone, he has great instincts and he is as tough a competitor as I’ve ever seen.”
The 6-3, 245-pound Morgan was a standout weakside linebacker, but he agreed to move inside for his senior season to replace Nate Webster, who went to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Morgan had a brilliant final season with 138 tackles (15 for losses), four quarterback sacks and two interceptions as the Hurricanes posted an 11-1 record.
“Danny has virtually carried our defense on his back for the last three years,” Davis said.
The Maxwell Football Club’s voters recognized that, selecting Morgan as the Collegiate Defensive Player of the Year. He will receive the sixth annual Chuck Bednarik Award, named in honor of the former University of Pennsylvania great.
Morgan, who grew up in Coral Springs, FL, was a record-setting fullback at Taravella High School, but he was recruited as a linebacker at Miami. He set a school record with 42 consecutive starts and he became the first player in the school’s history to have 100 or more tackles in each of his four varsity seasons.
As a sophomore, Morgan broke his thumb during a game against Boston College, but never missed a down. This season, he played the final six games with a painful turf toe injury and never missed a practice. Said Davis: “He guts it out. If there isn’t blood flowing someplace on his face or arm, the game hasn’t really started yet.”
“I love the game of football and I think you need to love the game to be a great player,” Morgan said. “It takes a lot of hours, a lot of practice and you’ve got to love this game to be special at it.”
Morgan chose to stay at Miami for his senior season rather than enter the 2000 NFL draft, in which he certainly would have been a high pick. Morgan made his choice to stay in school after talks with his parents and coaches. He was all over the field this season making plays for the Hurricanes who defeated Florida, 37-20, in the Sugar Bowl and were the No. 2 team in the final polls.
“I’m glad I stayed,” Morgan said. “I didn’t want to leave school after losing to Florida and Virginia Tech (in 1999). I wanted to break records. I wanted to get my degree. You can never replace your senior season, those memories.”
Morgan was named Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East Conference and he was selected a first-team All-America by the Associated Press. He has been compared to Bears Hall of Famer Mike Singletary for his intensity and others have likened his work ethic to that of Dolphins Pro Bowler Zack Thomas.
“Dan deserves everything he has gotten, maybe more,” said teammate Damione Lewis. “He’s been a great leader, he’s carried us through good times and bad times and he’s always been there when we need him. He makes all of us better.”