JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — David Morgan did what many of us do after our first year on the job: He took a vacation.
But Morgan’s occupation is quite different than most.
The 2011 Marble Falls High School graduate spent 18 weeks as a backup tight end for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.
After the team’s season ended Jan. 1 with a 38-10 win over the Chicago Bears, Morgan headed to the much-warmer West Coast and spent a couple of weeks in California and Oregon.
“It was time to get out of 10-degree weather, wear shorts and T-shirts, and go to the beach,” he said with a laugh. “We went to San Diego. One of my buddy’s girlfriends lives in Portland, so we rented a car and started driving north. We went to San Francisco and drove from San Francisco to Portland. It was fun.”
For Morgan, who played at the University of Texas-San Antonio before he was drafted, it was the first time he was able to take a vacation like that. The summer of 2010, before his senior year in high school, was spent driving across the state of Texas for football camps and up-close looks from college scouts.
After he graduated high school, he headed to San Antonio for summer conditioning and classes and took little time for anything else.
Last January, he moved to Atlanta to prepare for the NFL Draft, which was April 30. He was selected No. 188 overall in the sixth round by the Vikings. He signed a four-year deal in early May, reportedly worth $2.48 million.
“It was the first time I had definite time off,” he said about the West Coast trip. “I wanted to do something fun.”
The vacation also served another purpose: It allowed him to recover from an intense year of professional football.
Now that he has returned to Texas, it’s back to preparing for another NFL season for Morgan, who has been working out with weights before he starts skills training in the next few days.
“I’ll be training and working out on my own,” he said. “The season is long and hard on your body. You have to be in tip-top shape. You have to work out and keep your body fresh.”
He’s expected back in Minnesota in April for organized team activities. Until then, he intends to stay in Texas but will travel to Minnesota a couple of times before April to check in.
“The expectation is this is your profession, this is your job,” he said. “You have to be prepared for it. It means enough to us to take the proper steps.”
In his first year, Morgan caught one pass for four yards, which isn’t surprising considering he was backup to starter Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph had 83 receptions for 840 yards and seven touchdowns to set two franchise records: most catches caught by a tight end in a single season and most touchdowns caught by a tight end in a single season.
Although Morgan, who had been a starter since the seventh grade, is eager for more time on the field, he said he couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than Rudolph, who was drafted in the second round by the Vikings out of Notre Dame in 2011. He’s given Morgan helpful advice on preparation and professionalism.
“It’s been a different role, coming in to play behind someone who’s been established,” Morgan said. “That’s part of it. My role, whatever it is they ask, that’s what I’m going to do in any way to complement (Rudolph) and make my team better. That’s what I’m going to do.”
The NFL has the best football players in the world, and Morgan said what he gained in his first year was knowledge of the sport, how to watch film better, tendencies, and other small things that make a big difference on the field.
The Vikings couldn’t have had a better start to the season at 5-0, but they sputtered down the stretch to finish 8-8 and third in the NFC North, missing the playoffs.
“I don’t think we batted an eye,” Morgan said about the start of the season. “We were showing signs of greatness.”
The finish has provided plenty of motivation for the team, Morgan added, as they aim for better results in 2017.
Morgan might have signed a four-year deal with the Vikings, but he knows the franchise could release him at any time for a number of reasons. Still, he said, his season exit interview with coaches went well. They emphasized some areas on which they want Morgan to improve from now until the start of organized team activities in April, he said.
“I have to do what I can do and be the best that I can be,” he said. “I sat down with my position coaches, and they said we know and I know this will be an important summer for you. ‘Be smart. You can do what you want. Just choose to do the right things.’”