HOGS: awards, honors, notes
FAYETTEVILLE - On the same Tuesday he was named first-team All-SEC by league coaches, Arkansas senior middle linebacker Grant Morgan of Greenwood said he was “good to go” for the Texas Bowl against TCU.
ESPN will televise the game at 7 p.m. Dec. 31 at Houston.
Morgan couldn’t finish Arkansas’ 50-48 loss Dec 5 at Missouri because of an injured knee that held him out of Arkansas’ 52-3 loss to Alabama to end Arkansas’ regular season Dec. 12.
Morgan, the SEC’s leading tackler (119), thought the injury at Missouri might end his football career.
“As soon as I tried to get off the bench, I put any pressure on it and I couldn’t really walk,” Morgan said. “That’s when I guess a little doubt came into me where I couldn’t put a single bit of pressure on it. They were like, ‘Alright, we’re getting crutches.’
But we got the MRIs, and everything looked good. I knew I’d have to sit out against Bama, but the bowl games looks good. Yes, I'll be good to go. I’m excited to be able to go back out there.”
Aside from being the first Razorback since 2016 offensive lineman Dan Skipper to earn first-team All-SEC and the first on Arkansas’ defense to be All-SEC since 2014 linebacker Martrell Spaight, Morgan is Arkansas’ first among the three finalists for the Burlsworth Award, it was announced Tuesday afternoon.
Since 2010, the Burlsworth Award has gone to the year’s best player who originally was a walk-on as the late Brandon Burlsworth of Harrison was joining the Razorbacks in 1994 then blossoming into both a football and academic All-American tragically killed in an automobile accident after being NFL drafted by the Indianapolis Colts.
Morgan was a 2016 redshirting freshman Razorbacks walk-on for Bret Bielema then lettered as a reserve for Bielema in 2017 and Chad Morris in 2018 and 2019 before starring as a 2020 starter and defensive co-captain under Coach Sam Pittman, defensive coordinator Barry Odom and linebackers coach Rion Rhoades.
“That would mean the world to me (to win the Burlsworth Award), just because that’s the story we’ve heard growing up,” Morgan said. That’s the story that coming here, we wanted to be that next guy. We wanted to be the next Brandon Burlsworth story. The story of going from being a walk-on to being a team captain and being drafted. That’s just what you want to do. That’s what you fight for. That’s what I’ve really pushed for. Everyone always says, ‘Live your life the Burls way.’ But that’s the way people should live their life.”
CATALON TRIES HARDER
Arkansas redshirt freshman safety Jalen Catalon, junior weakside linebacker Bumper Pool and sophomore receiver Treylon Burks were voted Coaches Second-Team All-SEC.
Catalon, redshirt freshman offensive guard Brady Latham and redshirt freshman tight end Hudson Henry were voted to the Coaches All-SEC Freshman team.
Catalon endorsed Morgan’s first-team performance but said his own has room to improve.
“I felt like my play was pretty good throughout the year, but obviously I’m second-team,” Catalon said. “That means I’ve got work to do. I’m honored, but not satisfied. It’s just fuel for me to keep going and make the list next year.”
Regarding Morgan voted first team, Catalon said, ”He was the motor of our defense, and he deserves that, without a doubt.”
Catalon looks forward to the motor revved up for the Texas Bowl.
“That's huge,” Catalon said. “I know he wanted to play in the Texas Bowl especially. For him to be back and ready to go, it's definitely huge for our defense and gives us confidence going into the game, for sure.”
The Razorbacks practiced Tuesday and will again Wednesday morning before going home for Christmas. All return Saturday for covid-19 testing before resuming practice Sunday in Fayetteville through their Dec. 29 departure to Houston.