Chapter Three ~ Who Is That Guy ?

          Jen Shaw walked into the den where her father was studying the statistic sheet from the Friday scrimmage. She broke the silence. “Dad, they really look good! This could be our year. They were quite a surprise with all the passing.”

         Coach Shaw smiled and replied, “Jen, we may be able to put together an unbelievable passing attack this season. What did you think of those two boys throwing the ball?”

         She answered, “They look good, Dad. I also saw how fast that Morgan boy is.” She asked, “Does he run track?”

          Coach Shaw answered, “You know ----- I don’t really know!”

          After a pause for thought he said, “I’m going to find out next week just what that boy is capable of.”

         Jen Shaw thought to herself, “There’s going to be a lot of interest in Mr. Morgan from a lot of people.” Then as an after-thought she mused, “and it won’t just be from the football coaches.”

         The Monday morning, first practice in full pads, went by quickly. It consisted of a lot of running and various drills to get the players used to the full-dress uniform.

          It was two weeks before school opened. The administrative staff and teachers were currently working on student scheduling and making preparations for the upcoming year. Coach Shaw walked into the high school administration office around noon and asked Ms. Stella Dingler, the office secretary, “Do you have the transcript in yet for Kyle Morgan?”

          “I believe we do Coach,” answered Ms. Dingler, “but there is some kind of problem with it.”

          The coach quickly asked, “What kind of problem?”

          “I don’t know,” answered the secretary, “but there’s a note on it to call the school for confirmation on some issues in the file.”

          Coach Shaw said, “Let me see the file.” After the file was handed to him, he opened it and scanned the freshman and sophomore grades for the quickly becoming mysterious Kyle Morgan. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His grade-point average for 12 earned units over the past two years was 100 percent. There had to be an error. He handed the file back to Ms. Dingler and told her, “You need to move on this at once. I don’t want to get this boy entrenched on the football team and find out later he has transcript problems. Find out if this is somehow correct, and if not, get his actual grade-point average on the record. If for some reason this kid is ineligible, we need to know it now. I don’t want to spend a great deal of time working with him if he is not eligible to play with us.” He reminded her she needed to move on this quickly.

          She assured the coach she would take care of it before leaving school for the day.

          The transcript was from Central Jackson High school in Rawlings, Georgia. The coach had scribbled down the school phone number. Now he sat down and dialed that number. He had a quarterback meeting scheduled for 2:00 p.m., so he wanted to get this particular call out of the way. When the call was answered he asked to speak with the head football coach. He didn’t have a name to go with the individual.

          The lady on the other end of the phone told him that would be Coach Travis. She said he was teaching a class at the time and had left instructions not to disturb him for phone calls unless it was an emergency.

          Coach Shaw assured her it was not an emergency, but he did need to talk with the coach.

          She said, “I’ll leave word for him to return the call after class around 1:00 p.m.”

          Coach Shaw was again looking over the scrimmage statistics when the phone rang. He glanced at the clock. It was 12:59 p.m. If it was the expected call, the coach was certainly punctual.

          It was Coach Travis.

          “Hello Coach Travis. My name is Coach Thomas Shaw of Salem High School in Ridgeview, Maryland. I have a former student and player from your school on my football team. I want to ask you a few questions about him. I’d appreciate it if you would be completely candid with me. What can you tell me about Kyle Morgan?”

          There was a chuckle from Coach Travis as he asked, “What do you want to know about him?”

          Coach Shaw replied, “ He told me he played some backup quarterback for you.”

         Coach Travis answered, “Yes, he did start out the season as our backup quarterback.”

          Coach Shaw quickly asked, “What do you mean ---- started?”

       The revelation forthcoming from Coach Travis was indeed remarkable. “Well, we jumped out front of the first couple of teams we were playing by big margins and then put Kyle in the game at quarterback. He was our starting wide receiver. He had eighteen touchdown receptions, ran three kickoffs and four punts back for touchdowns and scored twice on reverse plays. He was first-team All-State.”

          The coach then returned to his quarterback story. “He would go in at quarterback and on every possession take the team to a score. We were trying to hold down the score , but they couldn’t stop him from putting the ball in the endzone. We finally decided that we would let him play defense --- he played safety, for much of the game and not use him at quarterback. We were blessed with an All-State quarterback. Morgan had twelve interceptions last year. He was just so fast he would outrun the ball to the receiver. You have got yourself some kind of football player.”

          Coach Shaw sat somewhat stunned at what he was hearing. “You mentioned fast,” interjected Coach Shaw, “just how fast is he?”

          Coach Travis said, “He won the All-State decathlon last spring with a 9.2 ~ 100-yard dash time. He wasn’t pushed. We never knew just how fast in the 100 he might be if someone pushed him. He ran both high and low hurdles on our track team. He won the state high hurdles with a time of 13.12 ~ and the low hurdles with a time of 18.62. Both were the best times in the nation. He also won the state pole vault championship with a 15-foot-3-inch vault. In that decathlon --- he high jumped 6-foot-10-inches and ran a 4.15.0 mile. He is an unbelievable track athlete.”

          Coach Shaw could not believe what he was hearing. He could not picture in his mind this unassuming, quiet youngster doing these amazing things. The coach asked, “Is there anything else about this boy that I might want to know?”

          Coach Travis answered, “Well, he was All-State in basketball. We also won the state title. He averaged over 31 points per game. Finally, you might be interested in the fact that he is the best baseball player I have ever seen. He throws a 100-mile per hour fastball, has an unbelievable breaking ball and hit over 30 home runs. He batted .770. We won the state title in everything he was associated with. He is an extraordinary young man.”

          The somewhat amazed coach thought about the strange report card. “We have a transcript that shows him with a 100 percent grade-point-average for his two years at the school. Can that be true?”

          “Yes, that is probably correct!” Exclaimed Coach Travis. “He has an IQ of genius in just about any subject. He has what they call a photographic memory. He never forgets anything he reads. I was told he made a perfect score on his Scholastic Aptitude Test last spring.”

          “One other thing you might want to know,” volunteered the coach. “He was started on martial-arts training when he was very young and holds a black belt in four or five different skills. I always felt this was where he developed that amazing quickness and unbelievable coolness under fire. I wish he was still with us. I had planned on just putting him back there in a shot-gun formation and letting him throw on almost every down.”

          “Why did his family relocate?” inquired Coach Shaw.

          Coach Travis answered, “From what I heard, his dad was relocated to the Washington area. No one knows exactly what he does, but it is rumored he is employed with the Central Intelligence Agency. Mind you, that is just a rumor. He does own a string of restaurant franchises around the Southeast. He has always hired people to run them for him.”

          Coach Shaw just gazed at the wall as he sat stunned while still holding the phone.

          Coach Travis spoke loudly, “Hello, Coach Shaw, are you still on the line?”

         “Yes, I’m sorry,” Coach Shaw said, “I was just digesting what you have told me. Thank you for talking with me. What you have told me about Morgan will help me a lot in getting him indoctrinated into our program.”

          “That’s fine, coach, I wish Kyle well,” said Coach Travis. “You’re going to find that you have a young man in your program that can make you competitive with any program anywhere in the country from what I’ve seen. I’ll be interested in keeping up with your programs to see the impact he provides.”

          For several more moments the two coaches chatted, then Coach Shaw hung up the phone. He could see why Morgan was so close-mouthed about everything he could do. If he had told anyone, who would have believed him? For several moments the coach sat and pondered upon the good fortune that had suddenly been thrust upon the Salem athletic program.

          The afternoon practice session went quickly. Some special-team drills and situation offense was the theme of the day. Morgan spent most of the time at quarterback with Mentz taking some snaps in special-situation plays. Tommy Carter worked at split end and flanker on all primary pass plays. In the punting, kickoff, point-after-touchdown conversions and field goals ---- it was evident that Morgan was easily going to assume those duties.

          Coach Shaw --- now that he knew what to look for, could see the abilities of Morgan coming more to the front. The coach had decided not to pass on his knowledge of Morgan’s talents to the other coaches at this time. He also would not inform the basketball coach or baseball coach of what they had to look forward to when their season rolled around. His thoughts were to limit expectations up front and let the results on the field tell the story of the talent level of Kyle Morgan.

          At home that night, Coach Shaw made plans to change the offense to accommodate the immense talent of his new quarterback. He was going to go with multiple formations from a pro-set offense. On many occasions there would be five receivers running routes with an empty backfield. Winkler would become the safety-valve receiver to the outside when he was not specifically running a planned route. A shot-gun formation would be implemented with a one-back and a two-back set. Morgan would have the ability to audible at the line as he desired and as the defense would dictate.

          He carefully worked out an audible system for his quarterbacks. Most coaches have their own system for calling an audible at the line of scrimmage. Coach Shaw had never had anyone he felt good about allowing this particular freedom. He also had never had a quarterback with total recall before Morgan.

          Before retiring that night he worked out the system he planned to implement. He would use a three-number system. The last number of the first double number would be the primary receiver. All receivers would be numbered 1 through 5 from left to right in the direction the offense was moving. The second set of numbers would be the zone the quarterback would throw the ball into. The final set of numbers would be the yards to go downfield for that primary receiver in that particular zone. An example would be a quick slant to the right side by the number 4 receiver in the set. The zone may be number eight with the final designation being 12 yards down the field. The cadence would remain the same as called in the huddle. An example of this play being called at the line would be; 44-68-12 ~ hut 1, hut 2. In the first two numbers the first number would be thrown away.

          Running play changes would be a color to designate a running play. It could be any color. An example might be the number 4 back into the number 8 hole. The call would be : Green - 54 - 38 - 73. The first number in both double first numbers would be thrown away as would the last two numbers called. They meant nothing. The cadence would remain the same as called in the huddle. The call at the line of scrimmage for this play would be; Green - 54 - 38 - 73 ~ hut 1, hut 2. If players were not in a position to run the play they would quickly shift into the needed set.

          It was after midnight when the coach finally turned in for the night.

          At 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the team met in a group for pre-practice instructions. Coach Shaw had been gathered with his coaches for over an hour explaining what he wanted to do offensively starting today. The day would be devoted to offense as would Wednesday.

          The coaches met with their quarterbacks before formal practice that Tuesday and installed the audible system without a great deal of comment from the players. They proceeded to go over it with all the team during the course of practice. Coach Shaw’s mindset was, “I have a genius quarterback. Why not provide him with all the tools available to allow him to be successful.”

          Thursday, both practices would be devoted to defense with Friday morning work on special-team play and the kicking game. Friday night would see a game-type scrimmage at the stadium.

          An inquisitive look was the norm as the team watched the birth of the shot-gun formation with receivers spread out all over the field. Morgan would rollout right and throw the ball back across the field to a receiver on the opposite sideline. He would tuck the ball in and dart by astonished defensive backs that had not witnessed the kind of blazing speed he was displaying.

          One other thing was quickly becoming evident. James Mentz was by far the most accomplished defensive back on the field. Several times he made leaping one-hand interceptions on bullets thrown down the middle.

          By the end of the days passing drill it was pretty much accepted by all that Kyle Morgan would be the starting quarterback and James Mentz would be the starting strong safety. Tommy Carter appeared to be the most reliable receiver and deep threat. He would move in at flanker in the Eagle offensive set.

          With the threat of the passing attack, it would become almost unfair to give the ball to Winkler. During the passing drill, Morgan would see the linebackers dropping back and make an audible call to run the 32-blast or 35-pitch and Winkler would be off to an almost sure score. Many times without a hand being laid on him.

          Coach Shaw thought to himself, “We are going to have some kind of amazing offense.”

          On Friday morning, Morgan was kicking field goals from 40 yards with amazing consistency. He would put the ball in the endzone on all kickoffs and his punts were usually well over 50 yards in the air. A dress rehearsal of the game-type scrimmage was completed by about 11:30 a.m.

          Bobby Winkler walked over to Morgan as he sat on the gym steps. “Kyle, you can fly,” he said, “how fast can you run the 100?”

          Morgan answered,” I don’t run the 100, Bobby, I run the hurdles and pole vault.”

          Winkler had not heard any times on Morgan’s hurdle exploits, but he was almost willing to bet he would be virtually unbeatable. He had competed against the best sprinters the state had to offer, but he had never seen anyone as fast as his new teammate.

          The Friday game-type scrimmage was a high-scoring affair with Morgan completing 22 of 26 passes for 296 yards and four touchdowns. He ran 63 yards for another touchdown and kicked a 41-yard field goal.

          Winkler had an 89-yard run for a touchdown and gained over 225-yards rushing. He also caught four passes out of the backfield.

          Cobb had sacked a scrambling Morgan on one occasion and put pressure on him on several others. Even after the ball was thrown he usually hit the quarterback. It was not a dirty tactic. It was just the way Coach Shaw had taught defensive end play. He believed in punishing the quarterback.

          The first-team offense consisted of quarterback Morgan, halfback Winkler, Shealey at split end and Carter at flanker with the second-team line. Every first-team defensive player possible was sent against Morgan that night to try and slow down his passing and running threat.

          Mentz directed the second-team offense and completed 11 of 18 passes for 141 yards.

          Cobb was on the receiving end of three of the passes.

          Morgan was not used on defense. The coach had decided that with his special team duties, he would use him only in special circumstances on defense.

          After the scrimmage, Coach Shaw met with the team under the flag pole. He told them, “I am well pleased with the effort I am seeing. We are going to be a strong contender for the region championship.” He went over the following weeks practice schedule and concluded the meeting with a prayer thanking the Lord that they had completed two weeks without any serious injuries.

          After the team started for the locker room, a tall stranger approached Coach Shaw. It was Kenneth Morgan. He extended his hand and spoke to the coach, “Hello, Coach Shaw, I’m Kyle Morgan’s father. The team really looks good.”

          Coach Shaw carried on a brief conversation with the elder Morgan and then moved toward the locker room. It was 11:30 p.m. when he opened the car door and climbed in beside his daughter, Jen.

          “Boy! Pop!” she beamed, “that’s the most unbelievable thing I have ever seen. How can anyone be as good as that Morgan boy?"

          Coach Shaw could only smile as he thought, “If you just knew how good that kid really is!”

* * * * * * *

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