STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Before boarding a Green Bay-bound airplane to take on the Packers, Minnesota Vikings tight end David Morgan was at his team’s practice facility getting ready for the big NFC North showdown Sept. 16.
The 2011 Marble Falls High School graduate spent the day reviewing film and hitting the practice field to go over the game plan again and again because one play could mean the difference between winning and losing. That was certainly true after the two teams played into overtime. Missed field goals by both kickers resulted in a 29-29 tie.
The Vikings were recently on the other end of a play going their way. Minnesota secured a 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints in a Jan. 14 divisional playoff game on a last-second touchdown throw from former quarterback Case Keenum to receiver Stefon Diggs. The game-winning 61-yard play propelled the Vikings into the NFC Championship against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Minnesota lost to Philadelphia 38-7, and the Eagles went on to beat New England 41-33 in the Super Bowl.
“We know,” Morgan said. “We were right there. We know what it takes. We have the talent. It’s about going out every week.”
The Vikings ended the 2017 season with a 13-3 record, second best in the NFC. Heading into last season, Morgan recalled the disappointment of 2016 when the Vikings raced ahead to a 5-0 record then lost four straight games. They limped to an 8-8 finish. Morgan said that result fueled him and his teammates for better results the following year.
That feeling intensified when the 2017 season ended.
To better help the Vikings win championships, they hired John DeFilippo, who was the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach, as their offensive coordinator. Former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was named the head coach of the New York Giants.
One of the Vikings’ biggest offseason signings was quarterback Kirk Cousins, an unrestricted free agent who played for Washington since being drafted by the team in 2012.
“It’s been fun getting in the regular season,” Morgan said. “It’s awesome getting Kirk Cousins. He’s a great quarterback and an awesome guy to be around.”
The Vikings opened the 2018 season with a 24-16 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
DeFilippo likes to have formations with multiple tight ends. Morgan said it’s hard for him to say if he’s playing more under the new coordinator. Instead, he has the same attitude he’s always had: be ready to play when he’s called. He’s also on the punt team, a role he is enjoying.
Starting tight end Kyle Rudolph continues to mentor Morgan, which has been the case since the former Mustang arrived in 2016 after being drafted in the sixth round. Morgan played college football at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
“He’s a guy I look up to,” Morgan said about Rudolph. “He’s been in the league for five years. He’s a really smart dude. Every day, he goes out, and he’s a true professional.”
After playing in four preseason games, 16 regular season contests, and two playoff games in the NFL, Morgan needed to let his body recover after the 2017 season. While he stayed in shape in anticipation of organized team activities in April, he didn’t put his body through the usual challenging sessions of preparing for football games each week. He even squeezed in a weeklong trip to Mexico.
“You want to take a couple of weeks off and take time for yourself,” he said. “You want to get away from football and have a good time.”
Those who take on the daily grind of the NFL know just how difficult it is to win. It’s said there are no secrets in the league. Morgan noted every player is an athlete with talent and intangibles few can match, so having the proper mentality and desire to compete is imperative.
But he retains the pure love for the game that he had when he donned a football uniform for Marble Falls. Recently, a short video of him hugging team mascot Viktor the Viking on the sideline made the team’s social media. The caption read: “The only thing better than football is friendship.”
“No doubt this is a grind,” Morgan said. “You get caught in the grind if you’re not enjoying (it). Obviously, you want to keep a positive mindset and just have fun.”
Of course, winning helps as well.