|Hawthorne High School's Jaylen Morgan not only has become one of the Cougars' top defensive backs, but he's the son of a former BYU Cougar (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna).|
In 1996, Brigham Young football fans were introduced to Omarr Morgan, who was better known as “The Blanket” because of his ability to single cover any wide receiver.
Now, 19 years later, the Morgan family has knitted up another blanket who’s draped over wide receivers in Los Angeles County: the son Jaylen of Hawthorne High School, who’s the owner of three NCAA Division I scholarship pledges including one offer from his father’s alma mater.
The Class of 2016 defensive back – who also has offers from San Diego State and Northern Colorado - is entering his second season on the gridiron after spending his first two high school seasons on the basketball hardwood. Jaylen Morgan says his first football hero wore No. 1 for BYU during the late 90s and serves as his chief mentor.
“The best thing he tells me is to never give up and try on every play,” Morgan said.
Morgan may not have his father’s 4.37 40-yard dash time from his BYU days or a decorated gridiron career. After all, Morgan just completed his rookie season with Hawthorne last year. But, Morgan shows he’s a hustle player when the HHS stadium lights come on.
Morgan has a nose for the football. His highlight film sheds light on a player who runs to the football and interrupts passing plays. His best trait is his backpedal, as Morgan is fluid at running backwards then adjusting his hips to stay on top of his receiver.
Like his dad, who played professionally in the Canadian Football League after BYU, the younger Morgan lines up at cornerback. However, Morgan also gets used as a safety for the Hawthorne defense.
“I’m a versatile player,” Morgan said. “I’m more of a coverage dude. Put me on the best receiver, and he won’t have that many yards against me.”
At 6-foot-1, 170-pounds, Morgan is taller than the former BYU standout and All-Western Athletic Conference performer. In his spare time, Morgan will go to the internet and look up highlights on “The Blanket” to improve as a student of the game. His dad is best known for his interception in the waning seconds of the 1996-97 Cotton Bowl against Kansas State.
Morgan won’t just watch his father’s biggest plays, though. He’ll view reels on his favorite NFL cornerback Darrelle Revis and pick up new skills after observing “Revis Island.”
Morgan has another prominent football mentor outside of his house: former NFL first round draft pick and Super Bowl champion Keyshawn Johnson. Morgan played on Johnson’s Team 19 club team during the 7-on-7 season this past spring.
“Playing for Keyshawn Johnson was a great experience. He really cares for the kids and gives us a lot of stuff. He doesn’t expect anything in return,” Morgan said.
He adds that Johnson isn’t the selfish and self-centered persona that NFL fans saw during his career with the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers. Morgan said Johnson is a selfless coach.
“He’s not selfish at all,” Morgan said. “We went to Arizona State and he bought the whole team Subway sandwiches. He wants us to do good and succeed.”
Morgan doesn’t have a timetable set for when he’ll make his college choice. And, even with three offers and famous football bloodlines, Morgan said he’s trying to become more of a complete defensive back.
“I’ve got to finish my plays. My dad stresses that a lot,” Morgan said. “One of them is instead of deflecting the ball, I’ve got to pick the ball off. I’ve got to be more of a ball hawk.”