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Giving Receiver

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A New Orleans Saint passes his good fortune on to others.

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Photo by Marcus Alfred, NOLA Grown

Joe Morgan may well have been destined for football. The Saints wide receiver grew up in Canton, Ohio, home of the Football Hall of Fame. “I was introduced to football at a young age, and I would tell my mom and sisters that I dreamed of being an NFL player,” he says. “The thing that attracted me, I guess, was the chance to emulate my favorite players. To make the moves they made — and be as fast as they were — seemed pretty neat.”

Morgan attended the University of Illinois, later transferring to Walsh University in his hometown, where he excelled as a fleet-footed member of the Walsh Cavaliers. When the 2011 NFL Combine rolled around, the quick young player was an undrafted free agent — and the Saints snatched him up.

After a standout pre-season in 2011, during which he scored touchdowns in two consecutive games, Morgan suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for the entire season. In 2012, he made a big comeback — first catching an 80-yard pass for his first NFL touchdown, and then, in the Saints’ sixth game of the season, Morgan made an acrobatic, 48-yard touchdown catch that would be replayed for days across major sports outlets.

With those successes under his belt, the Saint was eagerly looking forward to the 2013 season. But the universe had something else in mind. During training camp, Morgan tore his meniscus and damaged his ACL — an injury that would again sideline him for a season. “I was hurt and disappointed,” Morgan says. “I wanted to be out there on the field with my teammates, contributing.”
His injury did have one positive consequence. “It allowed me to sit back and pay attention to the details, however,” Morgan says.
“I guess I sat back and watched how important it is for us to be a team, and how we can support one another, even from afar.”

When he’s not flying down the field or supporting his teammates from the sidelines, Morgan is searching for ways to be more involved in the New Orleans community. He recently partnered with Winn-Dixie to host a charity event that will benefit New Orleans youth. Called the GridIron Bowl, the event will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 16 at Rock ‘N’ Bowl.

“When I realized that Winn-Dixie and I had a mutual passion for helping children, that’s when it sealed the deal for me,” Morgan says. “Bowling is one of my favorite pastimes, and I love helping my community, so what better way to give back than doing what I love, while I do what I love?”

The GridIron Bowl will feature live music, food and drinks, and an opportunity for fans to compete with their favorite Saints on a more even playing field — though fans finding themselves going up against Morgan may have spare chances. Proceeds will benefit Elevate USA, a local nonprofit that connects inner-city kids with summer and after-school developmental programs.

Morgan is also working on a T-shirt line with local digital agency NOLA Grown. The line, called Not Your Average Joe, is aimed at helping inspire “average” people achieve the extraordinary.

The receiver sees his focus on community service continuing far into the future. “I would love to continue to do programming that helps kids — specifically, projects that reward kids who are focused and on the right track — and also encourage those that may have lost their way,” he says, citing his athletics experiences and a supportive community as major reasons for his success. “If I can mentor, or even possibly coach, it would be pretty cool. I just want these kids to learn from my experiences and give them a chance to be successful.”