CRETE | Crete-Monee's Nyles Morgan may only be a junior, but the linebacker has already caught plenty of eyes of college coaches.
Morgan has filled three shoe boxes with queries and introduction letters from football programs.
"And I have size 15 feet," Morgan said.
The attention, some of which he said comes from some of the most prestigious programs in the country, speaks not only to Morgan's hard work in the classroom, where he is routinely an honors student, but to his hard work on the field.
The 6-foot-2, 220 pound inside linebacker leads the Warriors in tackles on a defensive first team that gave up two touchdowns during the first seven weeks of the regular season. Morgan has been in on 79 tackles this season, has picked off two passes and recovered two fumbles, one of which he returned for a 78-yard touchdown to help break open a second-half scoreless game against Marian Catholic.
"Nyles' talent begins with his natural ability on the field, where he can do things on the field that no other linebacker in the area can do," Crete-Monee coach linebacker Jerry Verde said. "He asks questions more than any player I have, and once in a while he will question things we do, not because of his role in the formation, but because he understands what we are trying to accomplish overall. When a player is able to understand the game that well, they've really turned a corner."
In last week's 35-32 second-round Class 6A playoff win over Peoria Richwoods, Verde opted to primarily use a 6-2 defensive set, with the prime objective of slowing the Knights University of Illinois-bound running back, Kendrick Foster. The scheme limited Foster to 46 yards on 22 carries and forced the Knights to quickly switch their offense to a passing attack. With Peoria Richwoods driving in the fourth quarter in an attempt to increase a slim lead, Morgan unleashed one of his savage hits on Foster for a loss that helped stall the Knights' drive at the Warriors' 21-yard line.
Morgan said any statistical numbers he's given credit for on the field could not have been possible without the play of the Warriors' aggressive front line of Chris Slayton, Jonathan Schultz, Rudy Antuna and Travelle Smith.
"I'm stronger this year, and just as fast as I was last year," Morgan said. "Compared to last year, the game has just slowed down for me tremendously ... this year I see the field better, which leads to me making better reads and better tackles, but I can't get it done by myself."
Crete-Monee will face another run-first attack this Saturday in the Class 6A quarterfinal playoff game against unbeaten Ottawa and running back Miguel Hermosillo, who has committed to play football at the University of Illinois.
"Last year, as a team, we learned the pain of losing in the playoffs," Morgan said. "We remember the crying afterward, that feeling of coming up short. I personally plan to do whatever I can do to make sure I never have to go through that kind of feeling again."