Hail Varsity's April issue is getting ready to find its way into your mailbox in the coming days and you'll notice a pretty familiar face on this month's cover. We looked at senior wideout Stanley Morgan Jr. and his decision to come back to Nebraska for his senior season.
Greg Smith offers some updates from the recruiting trail in an expanded recruiting notebook, Jacob Padilla gives a Spring-in-review look at the first full month of Husker football under head coach Scott Frost and there's plenty more.
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On the Morgan front, Hail Varsity spoke with a number of people that have close relationships with the star wideout to get a better look at what exactly kept him in Lincoln. To sum it up: he wasn't going anywhere.
The following is our talk with former Nebraska wide receivers coach Rich Fisher, who originally recruited Morgan. The interview has been edited for brevity.
DP: What’d you see, why’d you go after him?
RF: "There’s a couple things. Obviously, number one is recruitability. You put on a lot of guys and you watch a lot of tape and a lot of guys stand out, he was one of those guys that as you watch his high school tape, he did a lot of things that you guys are seeing now. He did those in high school.
"Super competitive on tape, catches the ball extremely well, he was a big body guy and when I saw him in person he kind of reminded me of [former Nebraska receiver] Quincy [Enunwa]. I didn’t know that he would ever get the size of Quincy but I knew he had that same kind of attitude.
"Once we got into the recruiting process and you actually start getting to know kids, I had a real good connection with him immediately and then with his mom as well. All those things kind of factored into going heavy.
"He ultimately ended up being, out of all those kids in that class — which there’s a lot of really good receivers that year coming out, I think you go back and look at [Alabama wideout] Calvin Ridley was in that class, I know we watched a lot of guys — he definitely was up there with all those guys."
DP: Did you have to recruit him harder to get him out of Louisiana?
RF: "Anytime you go into somebody’s backyard. We recruited so many national kids. You go back through my time there and I think of Jordan Westerkamp being at Illinois and recruiting against Notre Dame and recruiting against Northwestern and recruiting against the University of Illinois, then you take a guy like De’Mornay Pierson-El when I was recruiting him out of Washington D.C. and then Penn State and North Carolina. It’s funny, when you start recruiting kids you’re always recruiting against the schools in that area.
"With Stanley being a Louisiana kid, LSU was the school you were scared of relative to recruitability; you don’t want to waste your time on kids that grow up with a school and feel like they’re gonna go to that school. The one thing is you look at his offer list and he had a ton, a ton of offers. I mean Clemson and Florida State, I mean everybody had offered the kid.
"I just felt like my relationship with him and his mom was really good and we could provide… I kind of took the role of, look he’s from a tough area in New Orleans, he’s raised by a single mom and we could provide a place for him to feel safe, a place where he could get a good education in a safe family environment.
"And then obviously I felt like he was gonna play early for us, I felt like he could come in and he had the skill set, he had the knowledge, he had the work ethic … Like anything, recruiting is about relationships and I feel like I had a pretty good relationship with his mom.
"It’s funny, she just actually sent me a text couple weeks ago thanking me for recruiting him there and thanking us for the opportunity because it’s everything they thought it would be. It’s always nice when you move on and you still have a relationship with those players, but it’s nice to hear from parents saying, ‘Hey we made the right decision and we’re glad we went to Nebraska.’"
DP: One of the things that really resonated with him and his mom was when you told them he'd break records at Nebraska. Do you remember that conversation?
RF: "I remember it vividly. Once I got to know who he was as a person… there’s a lot of kids when you’re recruiting that they play the game but what are they playing the game for? Do they like the game or do they truly love the game? The more I got to know Stanley, you could see that he really has a love for the game. I think it shows. It shows in the way he practices.
"I attended a bunch of practices and I really went hard on him, I tried to make sure… you know, in recruiting you try to find something wrong with kids, you try to find a reason they don’t fit, and he possessed everything that I felt like we were looking for: a love of the game, he was a great teammate, tremendous student in high school as well. He was just one of those guys that I knew, based on his work ethic and based on what I saw — like I told you, he reminded me of Quincy and I was able to coach Quincy and Kenny [Bell] and he reminded me so much of both of those kids’ work ethic — I knew that if he came to Nebraska that he would break records.
"I remember that conversation and I meant it. He’s got a chance to break Kenny’s record this year doesn’t he?"
DP: Yeah, he’s got a chance to break a couple records.
RF: "It’s no surprise to me. That’s what I saw. It’s cool to see him live up to that potential. There’s a lot of kids you recruit that have potential and it’s neat to see him be everything that you thought he was going to be."
DP: So that wasn’t a pitch, that was genuine?
RF: "Hundred percent, yeah. I mean, I think everything’s a little bit of a sales pitch in that you want to tell people exactly what you think and sell your product, but it was more about what the value of him at Nebraska would be. I think there’s two kinds of coaches, there’s coaches that look at a player and say, ‘What can that kid do for me? How does he help me?’ And then there’s coaches that look at a player and say, ‘Hey, how can I help him? What can I do to allow him to be the absolute best he can be?’ And that’s really what I meant by that conversation is, hey look, I think this kid possesses all the tools and talent to come to Nebraska and break records.
"I mean, you recruit a thousand kids and all kinds of personalities and all kinds of different work ethics and that’s what you try to find is kids that obviously like the school, like the program but possess all the skillset and talent and work ethic to be successful. No doubt in my mind that he’s doing what he’s doing at Nebraska. There was never, never a doubt."
DP: Just walk me through that meeting, that conversation. What did that day look like?
RF: "He was on his official visit with mom, we were actually in the team room. We were sitting in the team room talking about his official visit, talking about what the weekend’s going to look like and what he’s going to be able to see. Like all official visits, we want to make sure that they get all their questions answered and we answer everything that they have. I remember telling her that I was really excited that she made the trip up and that they were up on their official visit.
"I felt like — just like I told you — there was a tremendous need for that size of body in our program, we were looking for a big kid and that he possessed all the things that I felt like could break records at Nebraska."
DP: So that was early on during the visit then?
RF: "Yep. I remember when I went back because I went back and saw him like the next week and talking to his head coach. Obviously the kid was highly recruited, you get one shot to get him on campus for an official and make an impression and I remember going back to the school and coach Crutch, his high school coach, said, ‘I don’t know what you guys did up there but you made a tremendous impression on the mom and the kid and he’s got you guys at the top of the list.’
"That’s ideally what you want. You want to be in somebody’s top one or two, ideally in the top three, late in the recruiting process so I knew at that time that we had a tremendous shot and it wasn’t long after that they picked up the phone and committed to me."
DP: How did that phone conversation go when he committed? What did he say?
RF: "He just said that basically, he felt the most comfortable there, he enjoyed the environment, he enjoyed the energy of the program — I think he got to see us maybe practice for a bowl game — but he wanted to be a Husker.
"In recruiting, those are the best words that you can hear."
DP: Greatest play you’ve ever seen him make on a football field?
RF: "Oh boy. It’s funny because he’s done so many great things at Nebraska, but I’ll be honest with you, what really sold me on him, when I was like ‘this is the kid I want in my program,’ is he was at practice. Now, they used to practice in a park, they would walk down from [St. Augustine] into this park — it’s got swing sets and slides and the whole deal, they didn’t have a stadium to practice in and they would practice in this park — and I just remember his energy in practice, real infectious, he was loud and encouraging and he wanted the football and it was just kind of one of those deals where you’re like, ‘Man this kid is special.’
"The one thing that I always kind of questioned early on was exactly how fast is he? Can he separate from a defender? They ran a go route in practice and he was lining up against a pretty talented kid and I just watched him run by this guy on a deep ball. It kind of just was the moment for me where I was like this kid is plenty fast enough.
"I know some questioned his speed but the time on a clock is not determining if a kid is a player or not and he’s got so many other intangibles.
"I’ve watched him, the Husker games that I did see, in Miami he made a couple plays in that game down that were just tremendous. That play last year, he caught a game-winner didn’t he?"
DP: Uh, the Purdue game.
RF: "The Purdue game. The catch in the Purdue game. There’s just so many plays where you’re like, ‘Wow, this kid is special.’ He reminds me of one of those kids when the game is on the line he wants the ball. He’s one of those guys that if he’s playing basketball, he wants the last shot. If it’s the last play of the game and they’ve got to throw the ball to somebody, throw it to me, and not everybody has that. Some people shy away from the moment. Stanley all through the recruiting and what I’ve seen, he’s made a lot of moments. That’s just a sign of somebody that’s not afraid to take a risk and I think that’s what makes him really successful."
DP: He told me his favorite thing to do on a football field was block, that surprise you at all?
RF: "Warms my heart, man.
"It doesn’t matter what position you play, you’ve got to be such a well-rounded player. I know a lot of people made a big deal about our blocking and mentality at Nebraska but you’ve got to remember too, Quincy broke Johnny Rodgers touchdown record, Kenny’s the all-time reception yardage leader, I mean those guys did way more than just block. But it’s just a piece of the equation, you can’t just be a sometime player, you’ve got to be an all-the-time player, you’ve got to be selfless, I think that’s what makes great teammates, and Stanley definitely fits that mold. And if he has to block and be physical, there’s nothing better than demoralizing a defensive back by blocking those guys on the edge. It helps you get open on routes. When you’re being physical and guys are thinking about you blocking them and then all of a sudden you’re running by them on play-action, it all sets everything up.
"He definitely would have fit in my room just fine, that perimeter warrior. It’s what’s going to allow him to sustain and be a force in the future as well."
DP: I like that, perimeter warrior. Last question I’ve got for you, were you surprised he decided to come back for his senior year?
RF: "It doesn’t surprise me in that I think Stan wanted to get his degree, I think that’s important to him. I think he also realizes that an extra year in a new system with new coaches is a great experience. Knowledge is power and the more he can grow the better he can be, he’s going to play in another offense, he’s going to learn new systems, new concepts and all of that leads itself to him coming back.
"I could easily say, if he did go to the NFL and we were writing a story about him coming out early I could easily say yeah, I get it. He’s from inner-city New Orleans and it’s him and mom and he’s got an opportunity to take care of him and his mom so I commend him for coming back and getting his degree. I commend him for being uncommon. I think a lot of guys in his situation probably wouldn’t come back but I think it speaks volumes to who he is as a person. Football’s going to end one day but that degree is going to last you a lifetime.
"I can tell you that his mom has been an unbelievable role model, she loves her son, she supports her son and I think she’s done a tremendous job. He’s very respectful, that’s the one thing I remember about him is he was super respectful just through the whole recruiting process and I just remember thinking 'what a well-rounded young man.' There’s a lot of excuses you can make when circumstances just aren’t going your way in life and he’s not an excuse-maker, he’s a doer. He’s got that perimeter warrior mentality to him and he’s going to be successful no matter what he does.
"I think what’s cool when you look at him, he is different, he is uncommon. The way he dresses — he obviously loves fashion — the way he practices is uncommon, he just does a lot of things that are unique and I think that’s why he’s the player that he is."
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.