Coal Ridge’s Morgan honored for excellence
In front of the Coal Ridge student body, family, friends and members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and U.S. Army, Coal Ridge junior Jacob Morgan received his official finalist award for the U.S. Army-Pro Football Hall of Fame Excellence Award on Thursday.
The award, which is in its fourth year being handed out, highlights the achievements of student-athletes across the country. Open to all sophomore-, junior- and senior-level high school athletes in the United States, finalists were determined based on athletic, academic and civic achievements. Morgan, who excels in football and track and field, was honored as one of the 20 finalists across the country, becoming just the third student-athlete ever in the state of Colorado to receive the award.
“This is just awing,” Morgan said following the short ceremony. “I never would have thought I would be at this point. To get nominated was an honor in the first place, but to get into the top 20 was so surprising.”
Nominated by Coal Ridge athletic director Ben Kirk, Morgan joins an elite group across the country, including another local student-athlete in Eagle Valley’s Jaycey Beard, who was honored March 17.
With the nomination and selection as a finalist, Morgan received a plaque from Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Haynes, as well as a custom-made U.S. Army jacket from members of the military branch in attendance.
Speaking to members of the audience, Morgan hearkened back to the work ethic and discipline his mother, Molly, and late father, Chad, instilled in him as a child, while also thanking his football coach, Trorie Rickert, and all of his teachers at CRHS for challenging him academically.
Last season as a member of the Coal Ridge football team, Morgan stood out as a leader on and off the field. On the field, Morgan was a standout wide receiver and defensive back, but his work off the field as a student and as a volunteer in the community really provided the foundation for his nomination for the award.
During his free time, Morgan serves on the board of directors at the River Center in New Castle, helping to identify problems in the community then providing funds to go and help solve those problems. He also volunteers at the Cancer Center at Valley View Hospital during the summer by helping patients out with whatever they need, along with filing paperwork in the laboratory at the hospital.
It’s not common for a high school student that is a two-sport athlete who also excels in the classroom to also volunteer in his community the way Morgan does.
Morgan isn’t like most high school students, though.
Seven years ago, Morgan’s father was diagnosed with cancer before sadly losing the battle with the disease. The loss of his father to cancer gave Morgan a personal tie to the cancer center at Valley View. Due to the personal and emotional tie to the center, his mother said that what he went through during his dad’s battle has a lot to do with what drives him as a volunteer.
“So many people had helped us during that time as well, going through all the different stages of the battle against cancer,” Molly Morgan said. “We saw how much the community really gave us in the time, and I think the kids really saw that as well. If there’s anything good that comes out of that situation, it’s that, because I do notice that all three of my kids have that in them, and the appreciation is on a different level having experienced it, so I think that’s where it comes from.”
That drive to help out in any way he can throughout his community has really elevated Morgan to a different level.
Speaking before Morgan, Haynes — a Hall of Fame defensive back who played for the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Raiders from 1976-89 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997 — said that Morgan is an ambassador for the community.
“He’s a really solid kid,” Haynes said. “He’s very caring and a really bright kid. Jacob has a very bright future; I’m not sure what he’s going to do with his life, but I’d be shocked if it was something average. I expect that he’s going to do a lot of good things with his life.”
The winner of The Award for Excellence will be announced on Aug. 6 at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which features the likes of Kevin Greene, Brett Favre, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Ken Stabler, Tony Dungy, Dick Stanfel and Eddie DeBartolo Jr.