In Hebrew, the name Jordan means "flow down." How better to explain Jordan Morgan's
approach to the past year of his life?
Despite a steady stream of obstacles thrown in his path, Morgan moved patiently forward, always focusing on the future, never on the past or the turmoil in his midst.
After missing the first two games of his senior season, he was finally back on the football field last week for Class 3A power Blue Ridge (Lakeside)
, picking off an early pass and returning it for a touchdown as the Yellow Jackets rolled to a 47-0 win over Alchesay (Whiteriver).
"It feels good, after all that's happened, to get back in the routine of playing games," the Cal commit said. "It was hard practicing all those weeks with no pay-off."
Four months after leading Valley Christian (Chandler) to the 2009 Class 2A state football championship as a junior quarterback, Morgan entered a period of chaos. His father, Bill — Valley's coach for five seasons — abruptly resigned, saying he was tired of fighting so many envy-based battles involving his son.
"When you're a good athlete and you play for dad, there's a lot of prejudgment that goes on," Bill Morgan said.
With his father no longer in the program, Jordan decided to leave Valley Christian and attend Chandler High School for his senior season. The idea of playing in the state's largest classification, 5A-I, for a state title contender that was set to appear on ESPN in a game against arch-rival Hamilton (Chandler) was motivation enough. But the thought of shifting to running back and playing alongside quarterback Brett Hundley, a UCLA commit and the state's top signal-caller, was the icing on the cake.
But in leaving Valley Christian, Morgan created an unforeseen consequence: According to a school bylaw, once a student is no longer attending the school, his/her parent(s) can no longer teach at the school. That meant Jordan's mother, Carla, lost her job as a special education teacher at the end of the school year. She was offered a job in the Chandler district for the following fall, but that job was later eliminated and no similar jobs were available in the district.
Since the Morgans own property in Arizona's White Mountains, and Carla was reportedly close to landing a teaching job up north, they opted for Blue Ridge. It was an ironic twist of fate since Bill had coached at Show Low, which wages a heated and sometimes bitter rivalry with Blue Ridge and its coach, Paul Moro.
"It was pretty difficult because I had established myself at Chandler and I was making new friends," Jordan said. "But I just listened to what my parents said and I had faith that this was the best place for me."
But his trials weren't over yet. Show Low officials accused former Show Low defensive coordinator and current Yellow Jackets assistant Danny Hawkins of recruiting Morgan to attend Blue Ridge. School officials even claimed they had text messages to prove it.
Fearing Morgan's on-field presence would prove a distraction to the team and possibly cause the Yellow Jackets to forfeit games if he was later ruled ineligible, Moro opted to sit Morgan for the team's first two games – wins over Vista Grande (Casa Grande) and Holbrook – while he waited for an Arizona Interscholastic Association ruling.
On Sept. 16, the AIA cleared Morgan to play, finding no wrongdoing.
"Being falsely accused is a hard thing in its own right," Moro said. "It was hard for him to sit those games but from our standpoint as a team and from his standpoint, he's been nothing but positive, helpful and a hard worker."
Morgan grew up on the football field attending practices while his dad coached.
"He would hold onto my leg the whole time," Bill recalled in a nostalgic voice.
From an early age, Jordan learned from his dad to be a well-rounded player, punting, kicking, passing and running. He posted the highest score in the nation at a punt, pass and kick competition when he was 13. Those skills served him well at Valley Christian where he was a dual threat at quarterback (1,240 passing yards, 22 touchdowns; 1,068 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns in 2009), a top-notch punter (42.6 yards per punt) and a Division I caliber defensive back (139 tackles, five interceptions).
Morgan's schooling was also top-notch, and he earned offers from several Ivy League schools as well as the service academies. But one visit to Berkeley convinced Jordan, and Bill, that it was the place for him. Jordan hopes to become an optometrist when his playing days are over. Cal's optometry school is among the best in the nation – and conveniently located near the football facilities.
He was also swayed by Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who served in the same capacity for the Arizona Cardinals from 2004-2008 and has always been known as an innovative defensive mind.
But equally compelling for Morgan was Cal's setting. Anybody who’s ever been to a game at Strawberry Canyon knows the view doesn’t get more picturesque, with the San Francisco skyline and the hills behind Berkeley setting stark and beautiful contrasts.
"After he got the offer I said 'Jordan, if you don't come here I'll take your offer,'" Bill said.
While Morgan's position in college will almost certainly be safety, Moro is still figuring how best to use him at Blue Ridge. Quarterback Nick Johnson
has played well and knows the system inside and out, so Morgan may be best suited to running back on offense.
The top-ranked Yellow Jackets get their first real test this week against No. 6 Snowflake (3-0). The results of that game should provide a much clearer picture of Morgan's role.
"What we do know is he's a great athlete," Moro said. "He needs to be on the field as much as possible."
Given what he's witnessed over the past six months, that's just fine with Jordan.
"I always view my life as fortunate," he said. "God's blessed me with everything I've worked for.
"There's going to be trials that come up in everyone's life but God will always help me get through whatever adversity comes my way, and I think I'm past it all now so it's time to move on."Craig Morgan is a freelance writer who has covered professional, college and high school sports in the Phoenix area for the past 18 years. He currently serves as the Phoenix correspondent for CBSSports.com, covering the Arizona Cardinals and other local teams. He also writes a weekly column and other features for The Arizona Republic. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.