SANTA CLARA, Calif. – If San Francisco 49ers receiver Josh Morgan sometimes looks like poetry in motion with the ball in his hands, there’s a good reason.
Morgan is a poet.
Since his days as a youth growing up in Washington D.C., Morgan has written poems about his life experiences, including the difficulties of living in a tough neighborhood environment where gunfire and police sirens were the norm.
During football season, however, he puts down his pen. “I don’t really have the time,” he said.
Understandable. Morgan is coming off his best season in the NFL, and he’s been called one of the league’s sleeper prospects, a player capable of having a breakout year.
The reason: With so many offensive weapons – wideouts Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn Jr., tight end Vernon Davis and running backs Frank Gore and Brian Westbrook – Morgan may have more opportunities to catch the ball while the others are drawing extra attention.
”He has the ability to get on top,” offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said. “I would think he would be a factor, and his play will improve because of the other people on the field. We’ll give him more room and an opportunity to work against the side of the field that he’s on based on where Crabtree and Davis and Ginn are displaced. So I would expect his contribution to be greater than it was a year ago.”
In 2009, Morgan had 52 catches for 527 yards and three touchdowns. Only Davis had more receptions, and only Davis and Crabtree had more yards.
”I always expect a breakout year every year,” Morgan said. “I work hard every day. I don’t think I’ve missed a day of practice since I was drafted – not practice, training camp, OTAs, nothing. I try my best to work hard and prepare every year with the intentions of making the Pro Bowl. I like to see myself as being consistent, and every time my name is called to catch the ball.”
Morgan, 25, isn’t shy about setting goals for himself. With enough chances, he hopes to improve on last season’s numbers.
“Most definitely,” he said about establishing goals. “You always want to do better and see yourself getting better every year. I call it the Crazy 8s. My goal is 80 catches, 8 touchdowns, 800 yards, at least. I think that’s a reasonable goal.”
Admittedly, it won’t be easy given the 49ers’ cast of offensive specialists. But if Crabtree (neck strain) and Davis (knee) are slow to start, Morgan knows he must step forward to help quarterback Alex Smith. Crabtree and Davis both practiced at full speed Tuesday.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons,” Morgan said. “But it’s a goal you set to keep you working hard. If I set goal like that, it means I’ve got to catch every ball thrown my way and do something with it. That’s putting pressure on yourself to perform to your max. The better you do, the more you’re going to help the team.”
And when the season is over, Morgan can get back to writing poetry.
”Most of what I write is not related to football,” he said, “but I might use some of my experiences in football as a metaphor for life.”