Gator Bowl Bound
Wide receiver Josh Morgan and the No. 12 Virginia Tech Hokies will face the No. 15 Louisville Cardinals in the Gator Bowl on Monday at 12:30 p.m. on NBC.
GROWING UP: I've imagined myself being a football player pretty much since junior high school. Basketball was my first love, though. I always wanted to play for Maryland and then in the NBA. I wanted to be like Len Bias. But then my dad told me I wasn't going to get that big, so we started watching Jerry Rice tapes. I started trying to live that dream.
SUNSHINE STATE OF MIND: When I was a kid, I grew up right down the street from D.C.'s Eastern High School. My father actually went to Eastern and was a good player for their football team, but didn't get a chance to play in college. We always watched football, of course. I used to watch Florida State -- Deion Sanders wearing that No. 2 -- watching him do his thing. Florida State was the school I always wanted to go to. So when we played them [in the ACC Championship game on Dec. 3, a 27-22 loss], it was real interesting. I just tried to go out there and give them a good show -- show them that I could have played there if I wanted to.
IN THE BIG LEAGUES: Bowl games are huge because your school gets recognized as one of the top programs in the country. The preparation isn't too much different. You do the same running and practicing you do all year. You watch a lot of film and, by game day, your opponent is like second nature to you. That's the biggest difference: You have like a month to get ready. You get more anxious every day. Last year [for the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, where the Hokies lost to the Auburn Tigers, 16-13], I was caught up in enjoying the experience and maybe not watching as much film as I should have. I was a freshman. I know how to spend my time better this year. You want to soak it all in but make sure you're ready for the game, too.
THE SWEET LIFE: New Orleans was an incredible experience. Great flight, warm weather, and we walked into that big old dome and you feel that turf under your feet. It felt great. I remember thinking that it just felt like the right setting to go out there and put on a show. We were down for New Year's Eve -- it was crazy. People with their Virginia Tech stuff on, telling you they can't wait for the game. People chanting out your name and taking pictures with you and treating you like a star -- like the NFL players get treated. On game day, to see that crowd and the nice, bright lights, you kind of get goose bumps because you can't believe you're actually about to put on a show for these people. But once you get that first hit, the goose bumps go away. Then it's just football. Time to play.
MAKING PLAYS: On the first touchdown, we knew their safety was real aggressive, so it was just a little hitch route. I broke to the outside and my teammate Josh Hyman threw a great block that got me free up the sideline. He blocked Carlos Rogers, who's with the Redskins now, and it swung me free. On the second one, we ran a 10-yard dig route, but it was a dig and go. He pumped me, and the safety bit, just like we saw in film, and I just broke free down the middle of the field. It was a great pass by Bryan Randall, and it was timed just like we did it in practice. When you're standing in the end zone after a score, you just feel blessed. God put you down here for a reason and it's such an incredible experience. Sometimes you don't even feel like it's you. During the game, I couldn't sit there thinking, "I have three receptions for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns." You think about the next play.
A FLOOD OF EMOTIONS: I spent a lot of time thinking about New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl this year because of the hurricane. A lot of my teammates have family down there. Our punter from last year was actually from there -- Vinnie Burns. He had a terrible experience. When the hurricane came, his house was under like 35 feet of water. You think about him, being a real good guy and such a great teammate. It was heartbreaking to watch. I kept thinking, "Wow," seeing all those people taking shelter in the Superdome and thinking about how I played in there just eight months ago. One of the hotels we stayed in was underwater. And you just hoped and prayed to God that people would be able to pull through.
GATOR BOWL GOAL: I think it's going to be a high scoring game [tomorrow]. Louisville has a good secondary and a great defensive line. They have played very well as a team. I think that if we play as well as we have in practice and execute, we'll go down there and come out with a victory. And put on a show. As told to Sonny Amato