Perseverance a family trait for Blue's Morgan

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

Joe Morgan was ready to quit football -- in the fifth grade. "I was playing quarterback, which I didn't want to play in the first place," the Winnipeg Blue Bombers safety said yesterday. "We were losing all our games and the coach used to blame games on me every time.

"I got into it with the coach one day in practice and I told my parents I didn't want to play no more. My mom said, 'OK, if you don't want to play next year, that's fine, but you're not quitting on this season.'

"I never, ever tried to quit football again after that."

One wouldn't be surprised if Morgan thought about it this season. The 25-year-old entered his sophomore CFL campaign as the Blue and Gold's starting safety, but by Week 4 he was third on the depth chart.

Tomorrow, against the Toronto Argonauts, he will be back in the starting role because Geoff Drover is out with a hamstring injury.

It's been a heck of a roller-coaster ride for the non-import, who grew up in Florida but was deemed Canadian because he was born in Ontario.

Morgan's fall began last July when he tore the labrum in his right shoulder against the Argonauts. The injury didn't prevent him from playing the rest of the season, but he made his second career start in the West Semifinal against Saskatchewan and badly missed tackling Kenton Keith on one of his three touchdown runs.

SHOULDER SURGERY

After off-season shoulder surgery, Morgan was still pegged as the starter going into the 2004 campaign.

Then it all went downhill again. He missed almost all of training camp with a leg injury, and when he played, he played poorly. Coach Dave Ritchie, who was fired Aug. 8, banished him to special teams.

Morgan didn't let it get him down.

"The attitude he had after being sat down is what kept him around here and also it got him back on the roster again because he kept a positive attitude," defensive backs coach Less Browne said. "He didn't go into this big pout mode ... even though he was getting better and Geoff was still playing in front of him.

"He sat on the sideline and was correcting Geoff with the mistakes that he was making out there. Even in the film rooms I'm sitting there going, 'Well, this guy is not starting, but he's correcting the guy who is starting.' So he got his chance to go out again once Geoff got injured. Hopefully he makes the best out of it."

Morgan's determination comes straight from his parents, Joan and Joseph, who are visiting Winnipeg this week with his daughter, one-and-a-half-year-old Jordyn, and will be in the Stadium stands tomorrow afternoon.

"Persistence and perseverance played a big part of it," Morgan said. "That's just the way I was brought up. My parents, they wouldn't let me quit on anything, so it's just instilled in me."

And you can bet he's going to be the hardest-working player on the field tomorrow.

"It was rough. It's still rough," he said of his demotion. "Right now I'm in due to circumstance. This isn't the way I want to get in. I want to outright be 'the guy.' I'm going to take advantage of my opportunity."


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