As a native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, James Morgan grew up a huge fan of the Packers. His childhood was in the middle of Brett Favre’s prime and as a result, he always wore the No. 4 jersey growing up.
At Ashwaubenon High School, Morgan went on to have one of the best careers in program history. He compiled a 19-3 record over his tenure as the starter during his final two seasons and collected 7,507 yards and 70 touchdowns in three seasons. Morgan was rated as a consensus four-star recruit by most major recruiting services and went on to sign with Bowling Green. As a redshirt freshman, he started in seven games out the 12 that he participated in. During that time, he amassed 2,082 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. He then transferred to Florida International and went on to set multiple records during his first year there – including wins (nine) and single-season touchdown passes (26). He finished his career with 40 touchdowns passes, which was two shy of the program record.
The following transcript has been edited for clarity.
Question: You're a Wisconsin guy. Take me back to your childhood and what was it like growing up there?
Morgan: It was absolutely awesome. My high school was a couple of blocks away from Lambeau Field and my house was about 10 minutes away from it as well. (I was a) huge Brett Favre fan growing up and absolutely loved watching him. He had some magical moments at Lambeau. It was a fantastic atmosphere for me and it was at a young age that caused me to fall in love with football. Ever since then, I really wanted to be a quarterback.
Q: What would you say are some things that you learned from Favre and what are some traits that you maybe applied to your game?
M: I will have to say, with Favre, you have to take some of the positives and some of the negatives because you can learn from both. With the positives, the confidence. Every time that he was on the field, there wasn't a certain throw that he couldn't make, and he played like that. I took that same type of approach and confidence with my game because you have to play like that.
Q: Reflect on your high school career at Ashwaubenon. You set a bunch of records there. How was that experience?
M: I'm very grateful. I went there because they had a really good program. I really enjoyed my time there. As a Wisconsin kid, you don't get as heavily recruited as some other states and places. So that was always the chip on my shoulder that I carried and that was something that I always used as I had something to prove to these college coaches. Our school colors were green and gold. The same colors as the Packers so that's always great.
Q: I noticed that you played basketball and ran track there as well. How did playing those sports help you on the football field and as a quarterback?
M: I did play basketball, but I wasn't quite as good at basketball, but the track was the one that I really learned the most from. I was a 4x4 state champion in 2015 and I had the opening leg. Thankfully the guys ran faster than I did. That was an awesome experience. The 400 is an absolutely grueling race and you have to sprint the entire length of the track. For me, that was something that was a really good mental challenge.
Q: Let's move on to the beginning of your college career. You started off at Bowling Green. What went into that decision to sign there?
M: The man factor was the offense and the coaching. Dino Babers (current Syracuse head coach) and Sean Lewis (current Kent State head coach) were there; just the relationship with those two and the style of offense they had was a huge factor. Jimmy Garoppolo was in that system and Robert Griffin III was another when he was at Baylor — seeing how they were able to spread the field and the caliber of coaching that I would eventually get was an easy sell.
Q: You also received your pre-law degree from there as well. How was that?
M: That's something that once my football career is over that I want to get into. Law school is something that I'd love to get into. My aunt and grandpa were both lawyers. I really looked up to them growing up and it's just something that thought would be really cool to get into.
Q: You transferred to Florida International. What made you leave Bowling Green?
M: The family atmosphere was one of the biggest positives with FIU. When I took my visit, you could tell how tight-knit everyone was, and they welcomed me incredibly. Butch Davis was another factor. He's a phenomenal coach. The weather didn't hurt either along with being in Miami.
Q: Your first year at FIU, you set the record for school wins and single-season touchdown passes. Take me through your junior season.
M: It kind of was just a big chip on my shoulder. Coming from B.G., things didn't work out how I had liked it to have there. [At] FIU, I felt like I had something to prove every day that I was there. I was in a QB battle and I had to bring it all the time. I really enjoyed that season and I had a great ride that year.
Q: this past year, your numbers weren't as great, but you still played well. What are some things that you learned during your final season?
M: I think the most growth that I showed was my role on the team. As a junior, I was voted team captain, but it was one of those things where I had to earn respect. The shifting of the role where you're competing for a job and showcasing what you can do to you're running the show. That's the type of transition that had to be made. That involved things like getting guys to 7-on-7 over the summer, film studies, workouts and all of that stuff that put me in more of a leadership role. That was a huge development for me.
Q: The big win over Miami. I have to ask you, what were the reactions and how was that entire experience as the orchestrator of it all in what's definitely the biggest win in program history?
M: It was absolutely incredible. What it meant for the school was huge and coach Davis having come from there and being able to win that was big. I can't say enough about how well our guys played with, the energy they came out with, the atmosphere on the sideline and afterward in the locker room was absolutely incredible. The coolest thing about that game was we knew what we were capable of talent-wise, work ethic wise and that we could win every game. That game really brought all of that to fruition on the field. It wasn't the season that we wanted, but having everybody still buy in and not giving up was a really cool moment.
Q: Being selected to the East/West Shrine Bowl, what did that mean to you to get another chance to play in front of your college state fans one last time?
M: It's a great opportunity for me. I get to showcase myself against some great competition. One of the things coming from FIU is that it's a group of five schools, but it's not a power-five. I get to showcase what I can do against better competition. I really looking forward to it and I'm hoping to display my arm strength, being able to anticipate throws, and being accurate. Also showing that I have an NFL skill set. I'm thankful to be involved and I can't wait to get down there and compete.