Just outside the locker room at Redskins Park is a bulletin board that lists the team’s community events. Beneath each event is a sign-up sheet, where players can volunteer their time to read to school children, run flag football clinics or visit pediatric wards at local hospitals. The events are always scheduled on Tuesdays, which is the team’s only guaranteed day off each week. Tuesdays are like gold for most of the players, so it’s usually a short list of volunteers.
But if you look closely at the lists, you’ll see that Josh Morgan’s name is under every single event.
“This is my hometown,” he explained to me. “I’ve been doing this since I’ve been in the league. I even did it in college. That’s just how my parents and my godmother raised me. They always told me, ‘God may continue to bless you, but you got to bless other people.’”
The oldest of four brothers, Morgan grew up in a tough neighborhood in Southeast D.C. and went to H.D. Woodson High and then Virginia Tech. One sibling gave up a football scholarship to raise his child, another joined the Navy. The youngest is 6 years old, and Morgan is doing everything he can to make sure he has a better opportunity.
Morgan told me that he and the older siblings didn’t have the benefit of having people from their community succeed and then come back to talk to them about it. He thinks that it might have made a difference for his brothers, who he says “grew up too fast.”
“It was rough. I saw both my parents go to work every day just to still be struggling,” he said. “We never had somebody to look up to like that. We had to find our own way. I had to keep telling myself that I needed to find a way out.
“I was 14 years old and lost two of my best friends to gun violence,” he continued. “A couple of my friends were locked up before high school, a couple more dropped out of high school. I always learned from everybody else’s mistakes. Whatever they was doing, I wasn’t doing because I was gonna make it out. I just couldn’t see myself living like that. I couldn’t see myself struggling, or sitting in nobody’s jail cell for nothing. I never saw nothing worth going to jail for. All that stuff is just stupid.”
While he obviously had the benefit of a good head on his shoulders, Morgan knows that not every kid in his situation has the capacity to make it through on their own. That’s why he spends his only day off every week making sure he connects with kids in the community, who may need a strong role model.
“You never know whose lives you’re gonna touch every day,” he said. “Who might be going through something, and you might have saved someone from committing suicide just by showing up to talk to them. Or made them want to go to college, because they see you went to college and they think it’s cool. You just never know how you’re going to affect somebody’s life in a good way.”