STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — Days before the start of his second NFL training camp with the Minnesota Vikings, 2011 Marble Falls High School graduate David Morgan was home visiting family and friends, playing golf, and even taking a quick trip to the Texas coast.
But it hasn’t been all play and no work for the former Mustang.
Morgan took part in team activities April 17-June 15 and returns to Minnesota for training camp July 26-Aug. 8.
“While I took time off, I never fully separated myself from football,” he said. “Falling out of shape, it happens so fast.”
The former University of Texas-San Antonio tight end continued to run and lift weights throughout the offseason, beginning shortly after the 2016 season ended.
The Vikings are aiming to have an exceptional 2017 season, though 2016 couldn’t have started better.
Minnesota was the last undefeated team remaining after winning its first five games.
But the Vikings followed that with a four-game losing streak. They ended the season by winning three of their final seven contests. One of those losses was to the Dallas Cowboys, 17-15, on Dec. 1. Minnesota scored with 25 seconds remaining in the game but failed to convert a two-point pass to send the game into overtime.
Morgan, who grew up cheering for the Cowboys, has looked up to tight end Jason Witten for years and even patterns much of his game after the Dallas great. However, he didn’t get to meet Witten after the game.
“There were people everywhere and people doing interviews, especially a guy like that,” Morgan said. “I grew up watching him. It was cool to finally see him.”
Playing the Cowboys was only one of his memorable moments. He also visited Soldier Stadium in Chicago, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, and was part of the Vikings team that opened U.S. Bank Stadium last season, the squad’s new home venue, which he said was better than imagined.
Despite the Vikings finishing 8-8 and in the third spot in the NFC North standings, missing the playoffs, Morgan enjoyed his rookie season.
“It was awesome,” Morgan said with a grin. “There’s a lot of tradition. It was a fun year.”
The tight end noted something most fans might not realize: NFL players are much bigger and faster than they appear on TV. Playing against such superb athletes requires bringing your best effort each week, he added.
“They’re all great on offense and defense and special teams,” he said.
The team is using the first part of the 2016 season to illustrate what it can do this year, Morgan said.
“It’s a new year, something new,” he said. “This will be a better year for us. We have the talent; it’s a matter of putting it all together.”
The Vikings drafted another tight end in 2017, Bucky Hodges out of Virginia Tech, in the sixth round. Hodges spent the summer in Minnesota. While the tight end room got crowded, Morgan said it still remains a family led by veteran Mason Rudolph, who broke just about every franchise record for tight ends last season.
With former Vikings tight ends coach Pat Shurmur now the team’s offensive coordinator, Morgan has a new coach, Clancy Barone, who spent the past eight years with the Denver Broncos.
“He’s been in the NFL for a long time,” Morgan said. “He’s coached every style of play out there.”
The former Mustang intends to play more this season, so he’s doing everything he can to put himself in that position.
“I want to contribute as much as I can,” he said. “In whatever they ask me to do, I want to do it, I want to help us win.”
The Vikings begin their preseason schedule at the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 10 and the regular season at home against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football on Sept. 11.