April 24, 2014
By Chad Shepard
For the better part of five years now, Jordan Morgan has worn the block M with pride, but to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Wednesday's (April 23) Detroit Tigers game against the Chicago White Sox, he donned another classic logo from the state of Michigan: the old English D. It was an authentic look for the Motor City native, paired with his "Detroit vs. Everybody" sweatshirt and a grin from ear to ear.
"This is my hometown," said Morgan, proudly. He's always celebrated the city, but yesterday it was the city that celebrated him.
The Motor City has left its mark on him; the long hours that Morgan spent in the depths of the Crisler Center during his time as a Wolverine is reflective of the work ethic instilled in him at a young age by his family and his city. He's a true Detroit original.
Most of the Morgan family came downtown with him for the occasion, including his younger brother, but it was Jordan who must have felt like a kid while walking the grounds of Comerica Park, soaking in the moment.
"I'm a big baseball fan, so to be able to share in this experience and be a part of the game -- enjoying it with my family, that's the most special thing to me," said Morgan.
An avid Tigers supporter since his younger days, the club even hooked him up with an autograph from his favorite player as a kid.
"When I was growing up, I made my mom stand in line for probably a couple of hours just to get a Tony Clark autograph," said Morgan. "So they were able to help me out and get me an autographed baseball. That was pretty sweet."
He looked calm and composed as he zoomed his offering across home plate and into the glove of Tigers backup catcher Bryan Holaday, but there was some rust to shake off for the former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
"Baseball was my first sport, but the last time I had thrown was probably last summer, playing softball with my brother-in-law," he said.
The enthusiastic crowd didn't seem to notice, and cheered wildly as Morgan stepped carefully over the third base line, deliberately avoiding the sacred chalked line. He acknowledged them with a wave of his hand, and then looked around one more time before coming to a set and firing home.
Never one to bring the spotlight to himself on the floor, Morgan hasn't begun letting all the attention go to his head just because his days in Maize and Blue are finished.
"I've been busy," he said. "There is not a lot of time to sit and take it all in."
Even if there were, Morgan isn't the kind of guy to relish the limelight. Despite countless interviews, speeches, acknowledgements and encouraging messages from fans, he's remaining grounded and humbled, sticking to the recipe that got him here.
When he came down off the mound and thanked the crowd again after a final round of applause, you could see the gratitude in his eyes. His wave was a more thoughtful gesture this time, as if he were thanking them for a lifetime of support instead of for a few moments worth. The crowd roared back, willing and eager to celebrate one of their own.
It's his grateful attitude towards Detroit that embodies why Morgan is so excited about the community's future. His eyes light up when talking about all the possibilities on the horizon.
"It's important going forward to continue to focus on positivity throughout the whole Detroit area," said Morgan. "Just trying to be positive and encourage people. We need to have a communal attitude, where we all help each other out instead of everybody fending for themselves because that's the only way we're going to excel."
Morgan has big plans for himself and for Detroit, and "can't picture (himself) not being a part of the rejuvenation of this city."
Since the end of basketball season, he has been on a whirlwind, his time split between final exams, banquets, community action and hard training as he prepares to make his run at a professional basketball career.
When he's finished playing, he'll fall back on his twin engineering degrees and step into an undetermined professional field. Wherever Morgan goes next, he'll carry that Motor City banner with him proudly, always abiding by its unofficial mantra: hard work.