Jeremy Morgan Named The Gazette's 2013 Male AOY

By Jeff Johnson

A lot of things you already know about Jeremy Morgan. Like the athletics resume he built at Iowa City West.

It was long and strong, enough to have him named Sunday The Gazette's 2013 Male Athlete of the Year.

Morgan was an outstanding football player, an all-state wide receiver as a senior. He was part of West's state championship track and field team in 2012 and qualified in relay events and the high jump this spring.

A two-time all-stater in basketball and the 2013 Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year, he's continuing his career at the University of Northern Iowa after helping West to back-to-back undefeated, state championship seasons. He comes from great hoops bloodlines: his dad, Michael, played for the Iowa Hawkeyes, and his mom, Cris, at Drake, and both have coached the sport.

All that stuff's pretty common knowledge. But here are some things only a few people might know about Jeremy Morgan.

He really likes to sing, and is pretty good at it, by most accounts. You'll hear current hits and even some gospel from him.

There's another sport he really enjoys, and that's golf. When he's not on the course, court, field or track, he's probably fishing.

Just ask him sometime about the three-foot catfish he unexpectedly caught one day.

"This little pond right across from my house," he said. "We usually go over there and catch little bluegills and sunfish. I thought I had snagged a weed or something because it was tough to reel in. Then all of a sudden this huge catfish comes up out of the water. I was pretty scared, actually."

Usually, it was the opponent that was scared of a self-described laid-back kid who turns into another person once it's game time. It doesn't matter what sport.

"Jeremy is amazingly even-keeled," Cris Morgan said. "He's never too high, never too low. He's got a great sense or humor, is very funny. But he is a very competitive kid."

"I like to have fun and laugh a lot," he agreed. "But when I'm on the court, I guess I'm transformed into something different."

A tremendous leader, for one. West basketball coach Steve Bergman has repeatedly said he's as good as anyone he's ever had, including the legendary Ali Farokhmanesh.

You hear stuff like that from his other coaches.

"Not really that vocal, but when he does say something, everyone pays attention," said West football coach Brian Sauser. "Everybody likes Jeremy and respects him. He was our strong safety this season, too, and he knew what everybody's job was on the field. Everybody's position, he knew where they should be and what they should be doing."

"In and out of basketball, in school, there's just a lot of good stuff going on with him," said Bergman. "He's a good basketball player, a very good basketball player. But more importantly, he's just a really good kid. My grandson loves him, thinks he walks on water."

The good-kid stuff stems from a strong upbringing. His mom is a longtime teacher in the Iowa City school district and his dad works for the University of Iowa Foundation.

The Morgans are a close family, for sure. Jeremy is the oldest of Cris and Michael's four children, and Michael also has an older daughter, Crystal Smith, that he helped coach at the University of Iowa.

You'd see all the Morgans at Jeremy's basketball games, with Michael usually standing in the corner of the gymnasium commiserating with former Iowa teammate Brad Lohaus, whose son, Wyatt, is a senior-to-be at West and also a UNI recruit.

"Him being at school has cut down on the food budget, that's for sure," laughed Michael Morgan. "Let's just say it's been different with him gone. When we took him up to UNI (recently), I had flashbacks to when he was first born. Time has just flown."

"Jeremy has got a great combination with the way he goes about his business on and off the court," said UNI head coach Ben Jacobson. "Early on in the recruiting process, that's what attracted him to us. He comes from a great family."

Though he played them all, there was little question what sport Morgan enjoyed most. He started playing AAU basketball against older kids at age 5.

"Always loved it, always loved basketball," he said. "I'd just do the other sports so I could be around my friends."

And, in the case of football, save face around his grandfather. Cris' father, Denny Frerichs, was the head coach at Urbandale for years and has the school's field named after him.

Basketball may have been king, but Jeremy knew he also had to make time for football. Or else.

"Yeah, my grandpa always tried to keep me in football," he said with a laugh. "He told me it'd make me tougher."

Sauser said there's no question Morgan could have been a D-I footballer had he chosen that route. Athletic 6-f0ot-6 receivers are gold.

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz sent him a hand-written note of congratulations when he committed to Northern Iowa as a junior. Most think the Panthers are getting a steal, someone who is still filling out physically, who is court smart, has leadership abilities and is a terrific defensive player.

"He's got a chance to be a tremendous player for us because he can do so many things offensively and defensively," Jacobson said. "He's got a chance to be a great defender. He's going to be a terrific leader."

"I'm always going to be a Hawkeye, but now I've got some purple going through my veins, too," Michael Morgan said. "He's a better player than I ever was. He's a better outside shooter, a better ball-handler ... I know he's got high aspirations in basketball. But we've talked to him about this. The number one goal is for him to get his degree. After that, everything else is gravy."
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