See more of the story

When Tanner Morgan left campus for spring break almost a month ago, the Gophers quarterback at least had the foresight to pack a bigger checked bag, filled with plenty of clothes and other necessities.

Well, except for one crucial tool for a student-athlete now facing months of online classes and film study.

“The one thing I forgot was my laptop,” Morgan said Wednesday on a video conference call from his home in Kentucky. “So I went out, and I got an iPad to work on and found a way to do that. My dad helped me get that. … It’s helping me out big time right now.”

Minus that one snag, Morgan has a pretty slick at-home setup for keeping up with school and football while away from both. When the coronavirus pandemic forced essentially all sports to cease in early March, after only a week of spring football practices, Morgan and his family adjusted on the fly to keep the All-Big Ten second-team signal caller ready.

He has a wireless TV setup in his room for easy film viewing. A whiteboard with dry erase marker hangs on the wall for Morgan to visualize plays. For exercise, he’s done everything from lift dumbbells in an empty parking lot to using a family friend’s well-equipped in-home gym.

“Whether it’s via FaceTime, text, Zoom calls … there’s a lot of ways that we can continue to connect our football team and not fall apart from each other. We’re going to continue to find ways to draw closer.”
Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan

While Morgan admitted it’s been a whirlwind of late, he’s focused on making the most of this time. From his makeshift film room, he studies quarterbacks such as the Saints’ Drew Brees and Jordan Love from Utah State, new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr.’s previous stop. Morgan browses social media for what other players and coaches are sharing so he can learn from them. His first goal is to “strive for mastery” of Sanford’s offense and his own defensive recognition. Then he’ll work ahead on breaking down opponents and game-planning for the 2020 season.

“Utilizing the time to be able to gain more knowledge and ask more why,” Morgan explained. “Like, why do we do this? Why do defenses do that? So that when you get in the game and play and practice, things just move so much faster.”

Morgan — a self-proclaimed “routine-based” person — has been able to accomplish all this by establishing a new plan, a set day that starts and ends at the same times.

“Preparation is huge, even through this time. You have to stay busy,” Morgan said. “You can’t allow yourself to get bored. And I think it’s a great opportunity to grow instead of binge-watching Netflix all day or whatnot.”

For Morgan, that involves reading and spiritual studies in addition to classwork and sports — though he has found some time to fish in his backyard pond and play the “Madden NFL” video game with his brother.

It seems like Morgan can continue with this new normal for the foreseeable future. He’s not too concerned with any what-ifs beyond that, from potentially playing in the fall without crowds to not having a season at all. He’s focusing on what he can control and still training his eye toward the Sept. 3 season opener. And he’s doing his best to spread that message to all his teammates now scattered across the country.

“Whether it’s via FaceTime, text, Zoom calls … there’s a lot of ways that we can continue to connect our football team and not fall apart from each other,” Morgan said. “We’re going to continue to find ways to draw closer.”