CRETE | Nyles Morgan made plenty of big plays and big hits in helping Crete-Monee to an undefeated season and a Class 6A state title.
The one talked about most he made in the program's biggest game, a 33-26 win over Cary-Grove for the state title.
"He makes the big plays, he is just a big-play guy, all the time," teammate Laquon Treadwell said. "He hit that No. 44 so hard, knocked the ball loose and everything.
"(No. 44) was Twittering that he was still bruised."
Number 44 was Cary-Grove's Kyle Norberg, and Morgan forced a fumble to halt a third-quarter drive.
"I just squared up with him and the line tied up their blockers and I was right on him, head on," Morgan said. "It was no big deal because that is what I am supposed to do."
Warriors coach Jerry Verde said it was a perfect example of how to tackle.
"Nyles didn't feel it because he tackled through the guy like you are supposed to," Verde said. "He didn't stop when he hit him. He wrapped and kept going."
Morgan finished with eight solos and four assists, and finished the season with 71 solos and 34 assists which included 13 tackles-for-loss. For his outstanding season, Morgan is The Times Defensive Player of the Year.
Morgan has offers from 13 schools and he list them in order of the offer: Illinois, Notre Dame, Purdue, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Northwestern, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida and Wisconsin.
"I never thought I would be recruited like this," Morgan said. "When I was a freshman, I was hoping maybe a small school or a (Division II) school would recruit me. It is kind of neat, but I also am going to take my time in making a decision. It is also about academics as well as football."
Though Morgan has the brawn, and his skills have not gone unnoticed by major colleges, he also stars in the classroom.
He said he takes several honors classes and his favorite subject is geometry.
"All those angles, I guess you can say in football, you have to learn the angle to tackle a guy," Morgan said. "On the field, you do not have time to calculate the angle. You have to just go and not think. If you stop to think, you can miss a play."
His approach is more cerebral than he gives himself credit for, said Verde.
"To play in our system, to make those reads and adjustments we require, you have to be pretty smart," Verde said. "Nyles is that. He can adjust on the fly because he is prepared."
Morgan said grades have always been important and his parents instilled that when he was young.
"It was always school first and hitting the books," Morgan said. "I know I won't have a problem getting into college because my grades are there."
Playing linebacker for a head coach who is the defensive coordinator and was a star linebacker at Marian Catholic and the University of St. Francis could be tough, but Morgan liked the challenge.
"We have a lot of things to learn with signals, but with Coach Verde, I love that he was a linebacker," Morgan said. "He has really pushed me and made me better. If I have a question, I can ask and he knows where I am coming from."
Morgan likes the challenge ahead next year.
"We know what it takes and we have some good kids coming back," Morgan said. "We know it won't be easy, but we just have to work that much harder."