The moments of relief are brief for Brad Morgan.
As he rested in a reclining chair in the Georgia Tech football player’s lounge last Tuesday, he said the pain in his lower back is something he deals with every day.
“What really helps relieve the pain is just laying down,” Morgan said. “Because of the pain I’m feeling on a daily basis, I’m probably going to have surgery.”
Morgan, a 2015 Etowah graduate, announced in August via his Instagram profile that he would have to retire from playing entering his senior season. Morgan, a lineman who had converted from offense to defense this spring, said the decision did not come easy, but that the circumstances involving his health were out of his control.
“Everything happens for a reason I guess,” Morgan said.
The injury that led to Morgan’s decision was a herniated disc in his vertebrae. The symptoms were gradual, but toward the end of spring practice this year, he began to notice something was not quite right with his lower back. Sharp shooting pain radiating from his back down his legs was eventually followed by his inability to straighten his right leg upon awakening.
Morgan was left facing the prospect of missing his senior season at Georgia Tech. After discussing the situation with the training staff and his family, he made the decision to forgo his final season of eligibility.
The conversation with first-year Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins was difficult according to Morgan.
“That was a tough conversation,” he said. “He was very supportive, but that was hard.”
After redshirting in 2015, Morgan appeared in all 13 games the following season, primarily on special teams. He then dealt with a similar herniated disc injury in 2017 that which caused him to miss seven games.
Morgan returned in 2018 to play in 11 games while starting in three at right guard and helping Georgia Tech to a 7-6 record.
Etowah coach Dave Svehla, who coached Morgan during the final three years of high school career, said the lineman’s work ethic stood out among his peers.
“Brad is probably one of the best offensive linemen I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach,” Svehla said. “He was so coachable. I think that’s one thing that gets overlooked by kids, and is the difference between guys who play in college and guys who don’t. Brad was willing to do whatever he had to do to get better.”
Morgan graduated this past spring with an bachelor’s degree in information technology management, along with a certificate in finance. This fall, he will begin a one-year graduate program studying economics while serving as a graduate assistant with the football team.
Svehla said he understood Morgan’s decision when taking into account the big picture.
“I understand why Brad felt he needed to give it up, but, at the end of the day, he ended up with a free master’s degree from Georgia Tech,” Svehla said. “That’s going to benefit him for the next 70 years of his life.”
Morgan said he has received a number of messages from friends and family in the week since his announcement, and he has been surprised at how many people he has seemed to affect.
He spent last Tuesday morning with the other graduate assistants breaking down film and helping plug data points into a system used by the Georgia Tech coaching staff. He wants to do whatever he can to stay connected to the program and, this fall, will be on the sidelines assisting Georgia Tech offensive line coach Brent Key with a unit that also includes Morgan’s twin brother, redshirt senior Scott, and younger brother, redshirt freshman Matthew.
Morgan paused when asked what he will miss most about playing football. He said the games that stuck out in his mind were last season, having the chance to start against Clemson and helping the Yellow Jackets beat North Carolina on the road.
“What will I miss? Wow, that’s a lot,” Morgan said. “Number one, just the camaraderie with the guys. Number two is just living out your dreams, because, when you’re young, you dream about playing college football under the lights, and I got to experience that. Do I wish I didn’t have these injuries? Yes, but I also got to experience some really cool moments.
“It was a lot of hard work. There were some long nights and early mornings. At the end of the day, I can say I committed to something special, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”