Stanley Morgan Jr. will play his last game inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday against Michigan State.
No one is ready for that yet.
“He, since day one, has helped me along with everything,” freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez said. “We have learned this offense together, but he has just been such a good guy to have. He is a genuinely good person and we can always count on him to work hard throughout the week and then be there when I need him to during the game.”
Turn on any tape from any game during his Nebraska career and you’re likely to find one or two plays where Morgan is downfield blocking someone as well as you’ll see a receiver block a defender. The physical side of Morgan’s game might be the most underrated thing about the guy who’s about to set all kinds of Nebraska records.
Morgan says blocking is his favorite thing to do on a football field. Good luck finding a more perfect way to showcase Morgan’s team-first approach. Head coach Scott Frost talks often about his love for the game and his commitment to the grind.
“The best part about Stan is that he loves football,” Frost said. “Every day at practice he’s got a smile on his face, he’s excited to do warm-ups, to get ready to practice. There’s always positive energy coming out of Stanley and you need that on your team. I don’t know if he’s quite as vocal consistently as some of the other leaders, but he sets the example daily for how you’re supposed to do things and how you’re supposed to practice and his enthusiasm is infectious.”
Morgan was running back Devine Ozigbo’s roommate during their freshman year. Ozigbo saw the work ethic and looked up to Morgan’s workmanlike approach.
“He’s always done things the right way,” Ozigbo said. “I felt like, and I told him this a couple times, teams know who you are. Just because this season you’re not getting as many balls as you may like, it’s just a testament to who you are. Teams know who Stanley Morgan Jr. is and they’ve got to be able to stop him if they want to succeed.”
And they haven’t.
April Edition: Why Stanley Morgan Jr. Came Back
A year after setting the program record for receiving yards in a season (986), Morgan is on pace to do the same thing again. He’s got 856 receiving yards with two games left to go. His 85.6 yards per game suggests he won’t just break the single-season yardage record again, he’ll become the first Nebraska player in school history to hit 1,000 yards in a season.
“It surprises me,” Morgan said of the fact no one at Nebraska has hit that milestone yet. “If I’m blessed to become the first player to do that, that’s amazing.
“It’s a humble feeling. Just to see all the hard work that I’ve been working for is paying off. It’s just a memorable moment for me, and I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life.”
Morgan is also just four catches and 91 yards away from owning program records for career receptions and career receiving yards. Hitting both would mean taking the top spots away from Kenny Bell.
Bell was on campus for last Saturday’s win over Illinois. It was one of the first times Morgan has remembered seeing him in Memorial Stadium since his freshman season. Bell made sure to find Morgan pregame and deliver a message.
“He just told me to go get it, break his records,” Morgan recalled. “Just go out there and just be the best me.
Morgan is probably heading for the NFL Draft after his senior season wraps up. He’s currently 27th in the country in receiving yardage and tied for 12th nationally in 20-yard receptions (16). He's got a catch rate of nearly 70 percent and he's averaging 15 yards a catch.
He was doing all that last year though, too. He could have gone to the draft after the 2017 season and started earning money. Instead he came back. He wanted to end his career the right way, he said over the summer.
The win-loss record hasn't been what anyone expected, but Morgan is proud of his final year all the same.
"This season is everything to me," he said. "It’s not the best season ever, but this is great. Just to see these guys moving in the right direction, it’s amazing to me. Just to come back and help these guys and to get them going in the right direction to set that base for Nebraska in the future. It’s real good, I like it.
"The only thing I wanted to close out on was just to show everybody in Nebraska I work hard every day, not just in games, practice, offseason, I work hard every day. Every time I step on the field I work hard."
That's what he wants to be remembered by. "I don’t give up, I just keep going," he said. Having a few accolades and his name in the record books will be nice but he knows if he does break some records in his final two games, they're probably not going to last very long.
Spielman has a shot at breaking them. The sophomore had 830 yards as a freshman and is currently sitting at 818 this season. Morgan is third in the Big Ten in yardage and Spielman is right there, right behind him in fourth. And if Spielman doesn't take Morgan's spot, someone else that Frost brings into the fold will.
Morgan knew the question before it was even asked. Of course Spielman tells him his records aren't going to be safe. Morgan fully expects guys to "shatter" all-time marks in the coming years under Frost.
"I mean, you see it, these guys are putting up numbers, these guys are excited, the freshmen are having fun. I mean, these guys are good," he said. "The future is bright for these guys, and it’s showing. With a tough season in the beginning, you still could see the progress every week. I was talking to a fan a couple days ago, and even though we had a tough start and a losing season, he still could see the process every week. You could see us grow every week."
It'll be Senior Day on Saturday and Morgan will get to take the field with his family. He'll get a massive ovation from Husker Nation. Hopefully he gets the chance to stop and smell the roses a bit before locking in on Michigan State. It's a day that has probably come too soon.
When he moves on, we'll talk about the catches and the touchdowns and the records and what is looking like the first 1,000-yard season in school history. Those things are all cool, as Morgan put it.
But if he could trade that 1,000-yard season for more time with Frost and this Huskers team, would he?
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.