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Jordan Morgan kept grinding in hope of achieving his NFL dream

Packers’ first-round pick bounced back from ACL tear to finish college career on high note

OL Jordan Morgan
OL Jordan Morgan

GREEN BAY – Jordan Morgan fought off plenty of butterflies and a few phone calls while anxiously awaiting the start of the 2024 NFL Draft on Thursday night.

It's difficult to blame him. The 6-foot-5, 311-pound offensive lineman went through a lot during his five years at the University of Arizona, including a torn anterior cruciate ligament 18 months ago that temporarily postponed his NFL dream.

After putting that injury behind him, however, everything was now right in front of Morgan again.

"Everybody (was) asking me what I'm doing. I had no clue," said Morgan, recapping his Thursday. "The whole process was just so crazy, and when it happened, man, my heart stopped. Everything froze and then I got that call."

That time-stopping call came from the Green Bay Packers, informing Morgan the team was selecting him with its first-round pick (25th overall). In doing so, Morgan became the first Arizona offensive lineman to be taken in first round since Buffalo drafted John Fina at No. 27 in 1992.

It was the ultimate badge of honor for the Wildcats' two-time team captain who was in the midst of building an NFL resume when he tore his ACL against UCLA in November 2022.

Vowing to be ready for the start of the 2023 season, Morgan was in Arizona's training room three times a day during his rehab in hope of beating the timeline to return from an ACL injury.

"I grinded so hard. I didn't want to feel like a liability," Morgan said. "I felt I was leaving my team in the dust just sitting there on the sideline and healing from an injury – I just didn't want that to happen. That was kind of my motivation, to get back on the field with my teammates."

Morgan didn't just make it back. The 22-year-old offensive lineman reached his final form during his final season at Arizona. Morgan earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors while playing in 12 games for the Wildcats, re-establishing himself as one of the top offensive line prospects in this year's draft.

Looking to replenish their O-line, the Packers came away impressed with Morgan after strong showings at both the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran a 5.04 time in the 40-yard dash with 27 bench reps.

While a few questions popped up during the pre-draft process about Morgan's arm length, Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst sees a versatile and athletic offensive lineman who can play either inside or outside on Green Bay's flexible front.

"I think he can play all four spots," said Gutekunst, referring to guard and tackle. "We're fortunate enough that we've got a lot of guys in our group right now that can do that, and so I think we'll kind of let the best five battle it out and see where that ends up."

A native of Marana, Ariz., Morgan added approximately 60 pounds during his time in Tucson. With a goal to start his freshman year, Morgan stuck to the stringent plan his trainers and school nutritionist set out for him and never looked back.

Injuries and a COVID-shortened season in 2020 slowed Morgan's start but he ended up making 37 starts at left tackle for Arizona. While that's the position he's played his entire life, Morgan told reporters on Thursday evening he's willing to play wherever the Packers need him. He just wants to play and win.

A student of the game, Morgan is plenty familiar with the decorated history of offensive-line play in Green Bay. He specifically mentioned former Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari as an NFL offensive lineman he modeled his game after.

"The way he moves, he's very balanced and he has a good strike," Morgan said. "Really strong arms, really strong upper body and he can really lock people up, which is where I get my game from. I like to lock people up and stalemate."

This past year, Morgan felt he had a chance to test himself against some of the best competition in the country while playing for an 11th-ranked Arizona squad that won 10 games.

He felt he had one of his best games in pass protection in a 27-10 win over UCLA last November, when he was pitted against Bruins' star pass rusher Laiatu Latu, who was the first defensive player drafted on Thursday.

The challenge only grows larger in Green Bay, as Morgan hopes to earn the right to block for ascending Packers quarterback Jordan Love. After everything he's been through, the Packers' new offensive line can't wait to compete for that opportunity.

"It's such an honor I cannot wait to get out there and protect for him," Morgan said. "That's what offensive linemen are supposed to do – protect the quarterback, open holes for the running back, and that's what I'm here to do."


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