FAYETTEVILLE — On the same Tuesday he was announced first-team on the Coaches All-SEC team as voted upon by the league’s 14 head coaches, Arkansas senior middle linebacker Grant Morgan of Greenwood announced himself “good to go” in the Razorbacks’ ESPN televised 7 p.m. Dec. 31 Texas Bowl in Houston against TCU.
Morgan couldn’t finish Arkansas’ 50-48 loss Dec 5 at Missouri because of an injured knee that held him out of Arkansas’ 52-3 loss in Fayetteville to Alabama ending Arkansas’ regular season on Dec. 12.
Morgan, the SEC’s leading tackler (119) was asked Tuesday by media during a Zoom press conference if he initially thought the injury at Missouri had ended his football career.
“As soon as I tried to get off the bench I put any pressure on it, and I couldn’t really walk,” Morgan said. “That’s when I guess a little doubt come into me where I couldn’t put a single bit of pressure on it. They were like, ‘Alright, we’re getting crutches.’
But we got the MRIs and everything looked good. I knew I’d have to sit out against Bama, but the bowl games looks good. Yes, I'll be good to go. So I’m excited to be able to go back out there.”
Aside from being the first Razorback since 2016 offensive lineman Dan Skipper to be voted first-team All-SEC and the first on Arkansas’ defense to be All-SEC since 2014 linebacker Martrell Spaight, Morgan is Arkansas’ first-ever finalist in the still to be voted upon Burlsworth Award.
Since 2010 the Burlsworth Award has been voted to the year’s best player who originally was a walk-on as the late Brandon Burlsworth of Harrison was joining the Razorbacks in 1994 then blossoming into both a football and academic All-American tragically killed in an automobile accident after being NFL drafted by the Indianapolis Colts.
Morgan originally was a 2016 redshirting freshman Razorbacks walk-on for Bret Bielema then lettered as a reserve for Bielema in 2017 and Chad Morris in 2018 and 2019 before starring as a 2020 starter and defensive co-captain under Coach Sam Pittman, defensive coordinator Barry Odom and linebackers coach Rion Rhoades.
What would it mean to him if he wins the Burlsworth Award?
“That would mean the world to me, just because that’s the story we’ve heard growing up,” Morgan said. “That’s the story that coming here, we wanted to be that next guy. We wanted to be the next Brandon Burlsworth story. The story of going from being a walk-on to being a team captain and being drafted. That’s just what you want to do. That’s what you fight for. That’s what I’ve really pushed for. Everyone always says, ‘Live your life the Burls way.’ But that’s the way people should live their life.”
Arkansas redshirt freshman safety Jalen Catalon, junior weakside linebacker Bumper Pool and sophomore receiver Treylon Burks were voted Coaches Second-Team All-SEC.
Razorbacks Catalon, redshirt freshman offensive guard Brady Latham and redshirt freshman tight end Hudson Henry were voted to the Coaches All-SEC Freshman team.
Catalon whole Hog endorsed Morgan’s first-team performance but said his own has room to improve.
“I felt like my play was pretty good throughout the year, but obviously I’m second team,” Catalon said. “That means I’ve got work to do. I’m honored, but not satisfied. It’s just fuel for me to keep going and make the list next year.”
Regarding Morgan voted first team, Catalon said,”He was the motor of our defense, and he deserves that, without a doubt.”
Catalon looks forward to the motor revved up for the Texas Bowl.
“That's huge,” Catalon said. “I know he wanted to play in the Texas Bowl especially. For him to be back and ready to go, it's definitely huge for our defense and gives us confidence going into the game, for sure.”
The Razorbacks practiced Tuesday and will again Wednesday morning before going home for Christmas.
All return Saturday for COVID-19 testing before resuming practice Sunday in Fayetteville through their Dec. 29 departure to Houston.