John Morgan has seen and experienced a lot during his five years with the Pitt Panther football program, but that run will come to an end after the 2022 season.
The pass-rushing defensive end from Upper Marlboro, Maryland has been a part of 40 Pitt wins, has been a member of a Pitt defense that’s been near the top of college football on a yearly basis in sacks and most importantly, was a key member of Pitt’s first ever ACC Championship winning team.
Despite being at Pitt for five seasons, because of COVID, Morgan had the opportunity to return for a sixth season. That seemed like a real possibly, with the graduation of Deslin Alexandre and the likely departure of Haba Baldonado for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Morgan returning seemed a likelihood, but that’s not going to happen. Morgan told Pittsburgh Sports Now that he’s made the difficult decision to leave Pitt and enter the ever-growing NCAA transfer portal.
“Honestly, a lot of factors went into it,” said Morgan. “First off, I understood that if I wasn’t able to have a COVID year that I would be taking my talents to the NFL. Also, I’ve been in the position of the guys behind me’s shoes, where guys ahead of me decided to come back for fifth and sixth years. Understanding that you want to play and feel like it’s your time to play. Being a team guy, I understand that feeling. I just feel like I will have the chance to take my talent elsewhere, which will give some of our younger guys, some of the guys that are from the area that have been waiting for the opportunity, to get on the field sooner. I feel like it would be wrong of me to stay another year and hold back those guys from that opportunity.”
Some of the younger guys that Morgan is referring to are Dayon Hayes, Nahki Johnson, Jimmy Scott, Nate Temple and Samuel Okunlola. This decision is something Morgan has been contemplating with his family and made the final decision earlier in the week. Before making things public, he sat down and informed both his position coach Charlie Partridge and head coach Pat Narduzzi.
“I talked with Coach Partridge and Coach Narduzzi, and it was definitely a shock to them and something that they didn’t expect, especially a guy that’s been here for five years to enter the portal,” Morgan said. “But, once I explained to them what my reasoning was, they were definitely on board with my decision because at the end of the day, they understand that sometime certain situations don’t work out for everybody. They both told me that if there’s anything that they could do to help me in the process to please don’t hesitate to ask. I appreciate that because our relationship has been great for my five years here.”
Morgan ends his Pitt career with 76 career tackles, 14.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. His best statistical season came in the 2021 ACC-title winning season, as he registered 26 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
The 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive end has been a member of the Pitt program for a long time, having originally committed to Narduzzi back on June 4, 2017. During that five-year span, Morgan has piled up memories that will last a lifetime.
“Really the growth that I saw during my five years with the program,” said Morgan. “Coming in as freshman, it was a totally different team. Being able to play with a plethora of talented players that have gone onto the NFL and guys that have left here to go do great things outside of football. I can honestly say that me making the decision coming out of high school to come to Pitt was one of the best decisions that I ever made. During my time here, I’ve met a lot of people that I will always remember and great things that I experienced that I will always remember regardless of where my next journey takes me. I can honestly say that the people of Pittsburgh and people at Pitt have put me in a great position going forward.”
“Coming into Pitt, I think our record the year before was like 5-7. From there we won a championship, played in bowl games and finished my last year here 8-4. That’s something that I definitely will never forget. I’ve been a part of a program where we were ranked, plus our defense has led the country in sacks that past couple of years. It’s a blessing to having been a part of that. I’ll never forget my times working with Coach Partridge and Coach Bates and making this defense great.”
So, what’s next for Morgan? With one year left, what’s he going to be looking for specifically in the next team that he chooses to play for?
“Mostly a school that can put me in a position that I can get after the quarterback,” said Morgan. “Whatever school can put me in the best scenario, whether that means go against schools that throw the ball downfield. I feel like in today’s age of football, the RPO offense is making it hard for pass rushers to get off the edge and get to the quarterback to show off their talents. I want to go somewhere that you know what you’re going to get out of the opposing offenses, like drop back and throw the ball in a pro setting.
“I want to be able to show off all of the hard work that I’ve put in over these last five years with Coach Partridge and Coach Bates and really be able to hone in on my game and have the chance to wreck games. I see myself as a game changer when I have the opportunity to go one-on-one against a tackle and get to the opposing quarterback.”