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December 10, 2010

Former Tech receiver Josh Morgan finds San Francisco to his liking

By: Jimmy Robertson

Former Tech receiver Josh Morgan grew up idolizing Jerry Rice and now he plays for the same team that Rice once played for - the San Francisco 49ers.

When Josh Morgan was growing up as a young kid in Washington, D.C., he idolized Jerry Rice and the San Francisco 49ers, and though he loved basketball much more, Morgan decided to play football because of his respect for the Hall of Fame receiver.

His decision paid off quite well, as he not only gets paid as a wide receiver in the NFL, but he also plays for the same team as Rice and runs into his idol on a regular basis.

“We’ve formed a good relationship,” Morgan said. “I run into all those guys, him and Dwight Clark and even T.O. [Terrell Owens, a former 49er receiver) – I haven’t seen John Taylor yet. They show up at team functions and charity events that we do, and they’re often on the sidelines during games.

“It’s great to be able to talk to him [Rice] and have him give me some pointers, and I pick his brain every chance I get. Me, being a wide receiver, it’s great for me to stay in touch with those guys.”

After a good career at Virginia Tech in which he finished second in career receptions (122), fourth in receiving yards (1,817) and fourth in receiving touchdowns (16) – current Hokie Jarrett Boykin has jumped him in receptions and yards – Morgan found himself bound for San Francisco after the 49ers drafted him in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He was one of three Tech receivers drafted that year, joining both Eddie Royal and Justin Harper.

Morgan stuck with the 49ers through training camp and made a nice contribution during his first season. He played in 12 games and even started a game. He caught 20 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns.

He jumped into the starting lineup last season, starting 15 of the team’s 16 games. He caught 52 passes for 527 yards and three touchdowns, and he also ran five times for 61 yards. This season, he’s started all but three games (as of Dec. 5), missing one game with a thigh injury, and has 29 catches for 412 yards and a touchdown.

“I know I can go out and be one of the best receivers in this league,” Morgan said. “I felt like I had the talent, and all I had to do was come out here and work hard. That’s what I did at Virginia Tech, and I was able to become one of the top four receivers in school history.

“I knew when I came out there that I could have some success. I knew no one was going to outwork me. So it [his success] has not surprised me at all.”

Morgan not only gets to see Rice on a regular basis, he also gets to play for one of the NFL’s all-time greatest players in Mike Singletary, the former Chicago linebacker who serves as San Francisco’s head coach. Singletary took over the job midway through Morgan’s rookie season.

“It’s like playing for your father,” Morgan said. “He wants the best for you and he pushes you to make sure you’re doing everything right. He’s a great motivator and he’s consistent. He is who he is. He’ll tell you what he thinks and demands the best of you – just like your father would.”

Singletary helped Morgan with the transition from college to the pros. But the guys who helped him the most were Isaac Bruce and Allen Rossum, neither of whom is currently with the team. Bruce, a receiver who ended his NFL career third on the all-time list for receiving yardage, retired over the summer.

“They both took me under their wing,” Morgan said. “Isaac Bruce was like a mentor to me. He really helped me get adjusted and helped me get better as a receiver and as a man.

“The toughest thing for me was being so far away from family. I had no family out here in California. When I was at Tech, I had all my friends there. Even a lot of D.C. guys who didn’t play football went there, and I was only four hours from home. I’m a big family guy, so that was the toughest thing for me, just being away from them.”

With Bruce and Rossum gone, Morgan hangs out a lot these days with Vernon Davis – a D.C. guy – along with Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn Jr., and Troy Smith. He still remains in touch with some of his former Tech teammates, including Royal, Harper, David Clowney and James Anderson, among others.

“The main thing I miss [about Virginia Tech] is the relationships,” Morgan said. “We grew up together. We all got better together. We went through the shootings [in 2007] and we’ve all stayed close.

“I love those guys like brothers. We all had the same focus and we were on the same page. We wanted to win games, get our degree and get to the NFL. Everyone was working toward the same thing. I do miss it. I miss it a lot.”

For now, he’s consumed with helping the 49ers win some more games. A team many pegged for the playoffs, the 49ers stumbled out of the gate, losing their first five games – with four of those losses by three points or less. They won three of their next four, but the playoffs now seem a remote possibility.

“We’ve got to finish games,” Morgan said. “We’ve got to get that killer instinct.”

He’ll also continue to work on becoming a better receiver, or actually, a great one. That will require more hard work and attention to detail. But if he needs any help, he needs only to ask arguably the greatest receiver in NFL history.

“Jerry showed you can dominate a game as a receiver,” Morgan said. “He’s like the Michael Jordan of football, and everyone loves Michael Jordan. That’s the effect he’s had on me.”