Morgan meets with childhood idol Rodgers
By Greg Bates
ASHWAUBENON – Wednesday, Aug. 18, will be a day James Morgan won’t soon forget.
As he joined his teammates on the New York Jets during a joint practice with the Green Bay Packers at Ray Nitschke Field, Morgan lived out a lifelong dream.
The former Ashwaubenon High School football star had a break in the action as the quarterbacks from both teams gathered together to chat.
Morgan had never met any of the Packers’ quarterbacks and shook hands with Aaron Rodgers.
Morgan said he grew up idolizing Rodgers and his game.
“James is a big fanboy,” Jets rookie first-round pick Zach Wilson joked to media members after Wednesday’s practice. “He was getting a little nervous over there. I’m a big fanboy, too. We all got to pretend like we’ve been there before. We enjoy being out here and being able to talk to (Rodgers).”
Morgan said he relished the opportunity to chat with Rodgers and pick his brain during practices on Wednesday and Thursday leading up to the teams’ preseason game Aug. 21.
“It was cool getting his perspective,” Morgan said after Thursday’s practice. “Yesterday, I got to talk to him in a 2-minute drill, and he wanted to hear about our plays. I was picking his mind on some of that stuff – just the depth that goes into every play for him and what he can tell about the defense on a play is cool. Especially as a young quarterback – to listen to that is awesome. I always admired him and (Brett) Favre growing up and being able to share the field with him is a cool deal for sure.”
When Rodgers was asked in his press conference Wednesday about meeting Morgan, Rodgers had no idea Morgan played at Ashwaubenon.
However, after the next day’s practice, the two got a photo together.
It’s been a nice homecoming for Morgan, who graduated from Ashwaubenon in 2015.
“He’s been excited about this since he found out we were coming to Green Bay back in May,” Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who is the younger brother of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, said. “It’s cool. I know his school is a mile and a half away. I know Aaron (Rodgers) was fired up to find out about that.”
Morgan, who was selected in the fourth round by the Jets in the 2020 NFL Draft, said his parents were excited when it came out the Jets would be playing at Lambeau Field.
“I was excited, too, just being that it’s preseason and I get a chance to play a bit,” Morgan said. “It’s nice to come home and see your family, especially during camp when you’re so busy you don’t get a lot of chances to do stuff like that. Being able to go to dinner with them will be great.”
Morgan had his first surreal moment coming back to Green Bay as an NFL player – not when he met Rodgers for the first time, but when he drove past Ashwaubenon High School on the Jets’ team bus.
“I had driven by a million times, but as a part of the Jets, it was cool,” Morgan said. “It felt like I was going home. To actually be there and be practicing over there was awesome.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic eliminating preseason games last season, Morgan didn’t get a chance to play in any NFL games during his rookie season.
He didn’t see his first action until the Jets and rival New York Giants played Aug. 14.
Morgan, who is receiving mainly third-team reps in practice, entered the game late in the third quarter.
He led four drives and finished 5-for-9 passing for 45 yards.
Mike LaFleur said he liked how Morgan settled into the game.
“He’s doing a good job,” LaFleur said. “He’s a cool guy to work with. You can see why he’s been successful up until this point. He’ll continue to work.”
Jets coach Robert Saleh also said he liked what he saw from Morgan during practice on Wednesday.
“He executed well,” Saleh said. “He did a nice job. With James being home, he’s excited to be here and play. But, like we tell all of them, ‘Make it normal and everything else will take shape.’”
Morgan should see some playing time against the Packers in front of plenty of family and friends.
He said his mom, Jackie, is hosting a tailgate pregame and has around 35 tickets for the game.
If Morgan gets a chance to play at Lambeau Field, it will fulfill another one of his lifelong goals.
“I always dreamed of that,” Morgan said. “Growing up, going to games and picturing yourself being there, so it was a dream come true for me. It will be awesome Saturday. I’m excited to get going for that.”