The NFL lockout is over and several professional football players with area connections are overjoyed at the opportunities awaiting them.
Joe Morgan, 23, became one of those players Tuesday after he signed a contract with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent.
“It is like surreal,” Morgan said by telephone. “I don’t really think it has hit me for real. Everyone is telling me congratulations. I was kind of shocked. I was hoping this day would come, but I never really thought it would.”
Morgan, a 6-foot-1, 189-pound wide receiver, played the past two seasons at Walsh University after starting his collegiate career at Illinois. He was a Division I All-Ohio performer in high school at Canton McKinley.
Morgan caught a team-high 41 passes last season for 653 yards and five touchdowns despite battling a high ankle sprain from the third game on. He closed the year healthy and tied a team mark with 10 receptions in the season finale at Marian.
“I am a fan of the game first,” Morgan said. “It was exciting to meet a lot of guys at the scouting combine, and I look forward to meeting Saints players such as Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and Mark Ingram. I admire and respect them and it will be exciting to be on the field with them, but at the same time I feel like I belong. I have the confidence to know that I belong.”
Kent State University Director of Football Operations Casey Wolf confirmed that four former Golden Flashes — cornerback Kirk Belgrave (Atlanta Falcons), safety Brian Lainhart (Cincinnati Bengals), linebacker Cobrani Mixon (Detroit Lions) and defensive end-linebacker Monte Simmons (San Francisco 49ers) — agreed to contracts with NFL teams.
“We are excited that these guys have been given the opportunity to pursue an NFL career,” Wolf said. “I think the reason we have four guys getting signed is because we have a track record of sending guys to the NFL that have been successful players. Undrafted free agents James Harrison, Joshua Cribbs, Antonio Gates, Abe Elam, Daniel Muir and Rico Murray are all former KSU players on NFL rosters; and we have had Julian Edelman, Jack Williams, Usama Young and Jameson Konz get drafted recently and they are still on NFL teams.”
Lainhart and Mixon were teammates at Cincinnati Colerain High School and 2006 graduates. Lainhart said he is thrilled for a shot at a professional career in his hometown.
“This is pretty sweet,” Lainhart said. “I am excited. I always grew up liking the Bengals, and my parents live about 20 minutes from the stadium. I will have family and friends that can come watch me play.
“Though we didn’t get drafted, we still don’t doubt our abilities and we want to make the teams we signed with. We go in with that chip on our shoulder and wanting to carry on a tradition at Kent State.”
The University of Akron had two players agree to contracts; offensive tackle Corey Woods (New England Patriots) and wide receiver-defensive back Jalil Carter (St. Louis Rams).
Mount Union product Kyle Miller, a tight end-long snapper, agreed to join the Jacksonville Jaguars.