Morgan emerging as anchor of Virginia Tech's defense

Hokies safety Davon Morgan played QB in high school, and says he uses that knowledge to help him anticipate the opposing quarterback's throws.
Hokies safety Davon Morgan played QB in high school, and says he uses that knowledge to help him anticipate the opposing quarterback's throws. (Gerry Broome)
  Enlarge Photo    
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 28, 2010

BLACKSBURG, VA. - Virginia Tech safety Davon Morgan can explain why it took him 39 games to snag his first interception as a Hokie.

He should have had one as a freshman against Matt Ryan (currently the Atlanta Falcons quarterback) in a nationally televised game against Boston College in 2007. "I just dropped it," he says, shaking his head.

After becoming a starter as a sophomore, he played just five games before tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament. He didn't regain his full health - or his starting job - until the final four games of 2009. "I just needed the time and the reps," Morgan says.

This is why as Virginia Tech takes off for south Florida to begin Orange Bowl preparations Tuesday, perhaps nobody will be enjoying the ride as much as Morgan.

He has five interceptions in his last eight games, finished with the highest coaches' grade among Virginia Tech defenders during the team's 44-33 victory over Florida State in the ACC championship game, and has played more snaps than any other defender on the team this season. He's also become a vocal leader as the Hokies have embarked on a historic winning streak: no division I-A team has ever won 11 consecutive games after losing its first two.

Most important, Morgan has embraced his role as the defensive enforcer, delivering jarring hits in the secondary and providing a swagger to a unit that was in search of an identity with seven new starters when the season began.

But as talk drifts from football to life, Morgan explains any cockiness is merely born from his own resilience and resolve.

"I always felt like a playmaker because where I come from, you've got to be very confident," said Morgan, a Richmond native. "You can't be afraid of anything because somebody will find your weakness and take advantage of it."

When Morgan was two months old, his father was shot in the chest in south Richmond, a murder case that remains unsolved. His mother was in and out of his childhood, gripped by drug addiction until three years ago. His stepfather also served prison time because of drugs and violence.

Instead, Morgan's grandmother and great-grandmother raised him in inner city Richmond. Morgan said the temptations of the street were ever-present, but his family history kept him on the right side of the law for the most part.

"It's a lot of violence and a lot of unnecessary things that happen there," Morgan said. "It's more about: 'Who's the biggest? Who's the baddest? Who's the toughest?' But I grew out of that because I felt there was more to life than just being the hardest, or who's got the most juice or the most diamonds? Whose car looks the sweetest?

"People tried plenty of times. My friends would say 'Hey Davon, let's go hit this liquor store.' . . . I wanted something better out of life. I had my mom and my stepdad who were all locked up. They were good role models to me in the sense of they were in jail so that was something I didn't want to experience."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company