Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs defensive end Aaron Morgan heads home to face Saints

TAMPA — Considering Bucs defensive end Aaron Morgan grew up in New Orleans, the matchup Sunday against the Saints in the Superdome will be a special homecoming.

But, truth be told, Morgan always felt more at home in bayou boats than on Bourbon Street.

"I was an outdoorsy kid," he said.

Morgan, 23, has fished since he was 3, largely because of his father, Jimmy Sr., a longshoreman. The family moved to Amite, a small town 80 miles north of New Orleans, when Morgan was 10 years old. He would help his dad around the house, from tractor work to gardening, and wrestle with his two older brothers.

But Morgan always found time to fish. To this day, Morgan and brother Eric, 34, have epic competitions each time they're in town together. They'll spend 12 hours in an aluminum, flat-bottom boat, searching for freshwater perch, catfish and bass, with points awarded for casting, type of catch and finding the best spots.

"When he comes home, I've got some redemption to do," Eric said, laughing. "He beat me real bad last time. He game-planned all that time to beat me that one time. It's okay. When we're home this time, I'm going to be ready."

The rematch won't come until the offseason because Morgan will be busy this weekend trying to reel in Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Morgan, promoted from the practice squad in early November, has received more playing time in recent weeks, used primarily as a speed rusher off the edge on passing downs.

Morgan, who was undrafted out of Louisiana-Monroe in 2010, is still developing as a player, but he's gaining confidence in the Bucs scheme.

And defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder has speed that makes him different from some of the other linemen.

"He brings a lot to this defense," defensive end Da'Quan Bowers said. "He's very, very fast. He can bend the edge. A lot of guys think he's all about speed, but he's got some power behind him, too. … He's bringing a different approach (that) fits in perfectly with what we're doing."

Morgan didn't watch or play much football until he got in high school. At a smaller school such as Amite High, with around 500 students, he had the chance to compete in several sports, including track, baseball, and basketball.

But Eric knew his younger brother's calling was football while watching one of his early junior varsity games.

"That week, he asked me, 'Is it legal for me to strip the ball from the running back when he has the ball and take it back for a touchdown?' " Eric remembered. "I told him, 'You can if you get your hands on the ball.' When I walked into the stadium, that was the first play I saw him do. It was kind of like a dream. Like, 'Is this really going on?' He stripped the ball and went back 40 yards for a touchdown. I was in awe."

Morgan's coming-out party came at the Superdome, when he led Amite to a Class 3A state championship in 2004. The game helped put him on the recruiting map before he landed at Louisiana-Monroe.

And on Sunday, Morgan will be back, with about 20 friends and family in the stands.

"It's exciting," Morgan said. "It's always good to go home."

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