Richard Gibson/Staff Writer
FIU’s football program continues to make waves in the NFL. With current players like TY Hilton and Jonathan Cyprien, FIU’s next representative in the NFL will be quarterback James Morgan, who was selected by the New York Jets in the fourth round in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Being pick #125, Morgan was the seventh quarterback drafted, coming after Joe Burrow (Bengals), Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins), Justin Herbert (Chargers), Jordan Love (Packers), Jalen Hurts (Eagles), and Jacob Eason (Colts). Morgan was picked before Jake Fromm (Bills).
Morgan’s journey to the NFL was a long one, and it didn’t begin in Florida. Morgan was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He went to high school at Ashwaubenon, which is only 1.5 miles away from Lambeau Field, the home of the Green Bay Packers. Morgan was a fan of Packers quarterback Brett Favre when he was growing up.
Beginning his college career in 2015 with the Bowling Green Falcons, Morgan redshirted his freshman year. His first actual season in 2016 saw mixed results, throwing for 2082 passing yards and 16 touchdowns, but 15 interceptions.
In his second season in 2017, Morgan only played seven games compared to 11 in 2016. He only threw for 1260 passing yards, with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. After this season, Morgan went into the transfer portal, being picked up by the FIU Panthers.
Morgan instantly made an impact with FIU. He had a career-high 65% completion percentage, throwing for 2727 passing yards and 26 touchdowns (A single-season FIU record) with only seven interceptions. Morgan led the Panthers to their fourth bowl game in team history, beating Toledo in the 2018 Bahamas Bowl by a score of 35-32.
The accolades for Morgan’s 2018 season were plentiful, earning him a spot on the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Watch List, and the Conference USA Spirit of Service Award and Newcomer of the Year.
2019 also saw success for Morgan, who threw for 2585 yards and 14 touchdowns, with five interceptions. Morgan led FIU to another successful season, including knocking off their hometown rival, the Miami Hurricanes. FIU would go on to the Camellia Bowl, losing to Arkansas State by a score of 34-26.
Once again, Morgan earned the Golden Arm Watch List and Spirit of Service Award. He also earned a spot in the Manning Watch List and Pat Tillman Award, earning a position in the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl, where he impressed scouts by throwing for 116 yards and a touchdown, winning the game for the East.
Morgan impressed more scouts in the 2020 NFL Combine, where he ran a 4.8 in the 40-Yard Dash, lept for 29 inches in the Vertical Jump, and 112 inches in the Broad Jump. Morgan joins fellow quarterbacks Sam Darnold and David Fales with the New York Jets, likely playing for a backup position to Darnold- or possibly a starting role.
The Jets finished last season with a 7-9 record, missing out on the playoffs. They lost to teams like the Browns, Bengals, Dolphins, and were swept by the Patriots. They did win some marquee games against the Cowboys, Giants, Raiders, and Steelers. Darnold threw for 3024 yards and 36 touchdowns last season while throwing for 28 interceptions and 11 fumbles.
Under head coach Adam Gase, the Jets have a pass-oriented offensive, primarily using check-downs and slants with the occasional long ball. In the 2019 season, the Jets threw the ball 521 times and ran the ball 383 times. Their average yards gained per pass was 5.4.
In order to succeed, Morgan will have to adopt the short pass and expect to pass more often per game. Morgan has the arm strength for the long ball and has the ability to move around when the pocket collapses. Overall, he should make a good fit with the offensive system the Jets have, and there will be a good chance that he’ll start a game in the NFL one day.