STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MINNEAPOLIS — While most Texans were bundled up and staying indoors because of freezing temperatures last week, Marble Falls High School graduate David Morgan saw an opportunity to embrace the cold and a tradition of his new hometown of Minneapolis.
Morgan, who is in his second year as a tight end for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, went ice fishing with some of his teammates. Not the type of ice fishing during which some poor guy is bundled up in everything he owns and huddled over a small hole cut through thick ice. Morgan’s version took place in a heated trailer with a hole in the floor lined up with the hole in the ice. It also had a TV and a kitchen.
“Essentially, it’s a luxurious version,” he laughed.
Morgan and his teammates were able to enjoy a little fishing because, as the NFC’s second-seed team, they had secured a first-round bye in the playoffs, which started Jan. 6.
Now, Morgan and the Vikings are off the ice and preparing for the New Orleans Saints, who defeated the Carolina Panthers 31-26 in the first round.
The Vikings and Saints kick off at 3:40 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The game will be broadcast on FOX. The winner advances to the NFC championship.
“It’s a big game for us, a playoff team that plays well on both sides of the ball,” Morgan said about the Saints, who are led by quarterback Drew Brees, another Texas Hill Country native.
This is also a big game for Morgan as it’s his first playoff appearance with the Vikings. Minnesota finished 8-8 last season and third in the NFC North.
Morgan couldn’t return to Texas for Christmas, but his family traveled to Minnesota to be with him and celebrate the Vikings’ success. His parents, Dave and Chris Morgan, as well as sister Megan headed north in December to watch the Vikings beat Green Bay 16-0 at Lambeau Field on Dec. 23 then stayed for the regular-season finale Dec. 31 in Minnesota against Chicago in which the Vikings prevailed 23-10.
His father said being at the Packers’ Lambeau Field was amazing because of all the history — and he got to meet some tailgating “Cheeseheads,” a nickname for Green Bay fans. He said they were nice and hospitable.
“To be at a place like that is something I dreamed about,” the elder Morgan said. “I’d like to visit every stadium in football, basketball, and baseball.”
During the Green Bay game, Minnesota had a new long snapper: David Morgan.
The week before, a shoulder injury put tight end and long snapper Blake Bell on the injured reserve list, leaving starter Kevin McDermott without a backup.
Coaches asked Morgan if he’d ever been a long snapper. When he answered “No,” they told him to “start practicing – you’re our backup.”
Then, McDermott was injured, and Morgan was up.
He said long snapper, a special teams player who snaps the ball over long distances during punts, field goals, and extra points, is the hardest position he’s had to learn.
“It gets so overlooked because you hardly see those guys make errors,” he said. “It’s very skilled and very hard.”
Thankfully, he said, the team signed Jeff Overbaugh, who will take over as long snapper for the Saints game.
The former Mustang said he is proud of his overall growth in his second season, noting he has received more playing time. Morgan even caught his first touchdown off a 1-yard pass during the Vikings’ 38-30 win over Washington on Nov. 12.
He said his rookie year was about learning the league and preparing to play. This year, he’s used that knowledge on the field.
“I’m trying to help and contribute,” he said. “My growth helps me more and more.”
His dad agreed.
“I think (coaches are) real pleased with his progress,” Dave Morgan said. “(Minnesota) took him (in the NFL Draft) as a blocking tight end. They saw a guy they could develop.”
Dad noted that his son has defied the so-called experts, who said he was more of a blocker than a receiving tight end. Those people also said the former University of Texas-San Antonio standout wouldn’t be invited to the NFL Combine, but he was. Since he attended a small high school and a small Division I college, David Morgan wasn’t supposed to impress at the combine, and he definitely wouldn’t be drafted.
He was taken in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
“I’m grateful he got the opportunity and made the most of it,” Dave Morgan said of his son. “There’s so much pride. I’m so proud of him. He’s kept progressing as a teammate and as a player.”
Dave Morgan said the family didn’t talk about the NFL when his son was playing high school or college football. Instead, they emphasized work ethic, attitude, and determination.
“We let his work speak for itself,” he said.
The younger Morgan said the Vikings are well aware this year’s Super Bowl, which is Sunday, Feb. 4, will be played at their home stadium.
“But you’ve got to look at the most important game, and that’s the one this week,” he said. “No game is more important than the game you’re playing this week. We have to go out and prepare the rest of the week and go out and play well on Sunday.”
But if the Vikings do get to the Super Bowl, several Morgans will be attendance.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Dave Morgan said. “We’re saving our pennies for our next trip.”