Columbus officially has its “captain,” and he’s one of the most dominant receivers in the history of Arena Football. Donovan “Captain” Morgan signed a contract with the Arena Football Leagues newest franchise the Columbus Destroyers after spending two years retired from football. The future Hall of Fame wide receiver has spent eight seasons in the AFL, producing over 1,000 yards in each of those seasons. Most recently playing in 2016 with the LA KISS, Morgan finished the season with his fifth All-Arena selection, hauling in 113 catches for 1,462 yards and 41 touchdowns.
“The thing that made me want to comeback was when I was watching the AFL games and I realized that there was something missing from it, and what was missing in that game was my heart and passion when I’m on that field,” Morgan said. “To be able to get back on the field that gave me my first opportunity to be great, I thought why not, I still have a lot left in the tank and I wanted to give the fans what they’ve been waiting for and that's the masterpiece at work right now with the Columbus Destroyers,” Morgan said.
The “masterpiece,” which is the roster of the new team, is still in the only three days into its inaugural free agency but it has began to shape up nicely. The Destroyers have added four former All-Arena defensive linemen, a young quarterback in Greg McGhee who has the potential to turn into a dominant dual threat nightmare for defensive coordinators, as well as veteran defensive backs Varmah Sonie and Larico Stevenson. The masterpiece is well on its way to being a competitive roster.
“Defense wins championships, offense builds teams. The offense is going to put a phenomenal show on that turf, and the defense is going to continue to get us the ball,” Morgan said.
“We’re going to have some guys on defense who get after the ball and in terms of the offense we will not disappoint our fans, and even though we haven’t touched the field yet I’m not afraid to say that. I just know what’s about to happen and I’m getting goosebumps talking about it right now,” Morgan said.
“We’re winning the championship and I’m not afraid to say that. Recently everybody’s been light and buddy buddy but we’re going to win now, no if ands or buts about it. We’re here to win, we’re here to stay, and we’re here to make a name for ourselves,” Morgan said.
The Destroyers will be coached by former Arena Football League quarterback Matt Sauk, who just so happened to be the offensive coordinator during the best season of Donovan Morgan’s hall of fame career. In 2015 with Sauk calling plays, Morgan put up a career high 2,074 yards, which is the eighth highest number of receiving yards ever in an AFL season.
There have only been 10 other seasons when a receiver had 2,000 yards and only six wide receivers have accomplished the feat. Tiger Jones and Jessie Schmidt have hit 2,000 yards multiple times.
“Matt Sauk reached out to me and said Donovan, I played this game for a long time and I’ve coached this game for a long time, you’re the only players that’s gotten 2,000 yards with me, and I’m the only coach that’s gotten you to 2,000 yards, so I think we’re a match made in heaven, and I said of course,” Morgan said.
"I can’t wait for this season to start because I know that Sauk is putting together the Golden State Warriors of Arena Football,” Morgan said. While time will have to tell if Destroyers turns out to be as great as the Warriors, Morgan did say that out of the starting five in Golden State he’d compare himself most to small forward Kevin Durant.
The new Captain of Columbus has already had the opportunity to play at Nationwide Arena during the early part of his career and the atmosphere during those early trips to Columbus had a lasting impact on his decision this year.
“Coach Sauk was one of the big reasons but the other big reason is that the Destroyers take me back to old arena football. It reminds me of the roots from which I came, when I was a rookie we played against the Columbus Destroyers and those fans were amazing. With a fan base like that I’m saying it right now, we’re gonna do better than Albany in fan attendance.” Morgan said.
“Man Columbus was amazing, when I think of old arena football I think of 17,000-18,000 thousand every time and I know that the fans in Columbus Ohio are going to bring that back to the sport such as the Albany Empire did last year. I think that’s going to be an amazing scene for us our first home game on May 18th.” Morgan said.
Fans across the league have been very excited about the captain’s return to arena football, but as recently as a few months ago many would have doubted that Morgan would be back. But deep down inside, the captain always had a feeling he’d wind up back inside the walls of an arena football field.
“I really believe that if the LA KISS hadn’t folded I would've kept playing. I had built a lot of relationships in LA. I was there for three years the, longest I’ve ever been with an arena team, and it was like when they left I felt that a part of me was leaving. So I decided to settle down and reevaluate but that fire never left me. Every time I was out running routes or at the field training kids, every time I found myself out there training them I wanted to get back out there more and more. So I knew this day was coming and I’m happy that it’s here,” Morgan said.
Despite knowing the day would come, Morgan still spent two seasons away from the sport he has played his entire life. Being as competitive and self motivated as Morgan is, time away from the AFL wasn’t always easy, but that competitive fire sparked right up when Morgan heard some of his receiver colleagues claim themselves to be the best.
“Yeah I was watching, and it was one of those things where I tried to tell myself that I wasn’t going to watch, but then I would turn it on, and I would start to get that itch to play, and I said hold up let me turn this off. But then I’d see these receivers saying they were the best to ever do this, or the best to ever be on this turf and I said wait a minute, they must’ve forgot. There’s gonna be something serious coming this year I promise you that,” Morgan said.
Often times when an expansion team enters any league, they are at an immediate disadvantage because the returning teams have their rosters already partially set. But due to the new CBA in the AFL every player in the league is on a one year contract, making the league's free agency a very competitive and open market. Similar to last seasons Albany Empire staff, Coach Sauk and company have the opportunity to get quality players during this off-seasons free agency.
Morgan has experience being on an expansion team with high expectations, in 2014 when the LA KISS had their first season Morgan was the teams best offensive player. Morgan was a vocal leader from day one in LA, and is expected to have a similar role in Columbus.
“Honestly it’s all about consistency. When you get on that high you need to stay on that high, you can never take it back down a notch. You have to continue to be professional as an organization and it starts at the top. What I’ve witnessed already with the Columbus Destroyers is that the top is well taken care of and they are well prepared to bring this organization back to the way it was before,” Morgan said.
“From the owners, front office, to the coaches and players, and the equipment managers and ball-boys, everyone is going to be professional and everyone is going to have respect for everyone around the organization. It’s going to show when that product comes out on the field,” Morgan said.
No matter how dominant a wide receiver, you can only catch as many passes as the quarterback under center throws your way. That’s why on day two of AFL free agency the Destroyers signed a Pittsburgh Pennsylvania native Greg McGhee. McGhee spent his rookie season as a member of the Philadelphia Soul in 2018, learning from two of the top offensive minds in Arena Football in head coach Clint Dolezel and quarterback Dan Raudabaugh.
When Raudabaugh suffered a mid season injury, McGhee stepped in and started two games for the the Soul, throwing ten touchdowns to only three interceptions and adding an additional four touchdowns on the ground. Being a rookie quarterback is never easy but McGhee showed poise and a lot of potential.
“He’s a smooth guy he has nice touch,” Morgan said. “Matt’s going to ask him to sit in the pocket longer and allow things to develop and Greg’s going to be dominant. He has receivers that are going to get open and I’m glad that he brings the option to the table with his legs, if things breakdown he can still make plays and get the ball to his receivers or takeoff and run. I’m excited to have this young man on the team and I’m excited to be apart of the greatness that he’s about to bring to the Arena League and the football world period. He’s an elite quarterback and I think he can do it,” Morgan said.
McGhee is just 26 years old and only entering his second season in the AFL, so to have a veteran presence like Morgan around will only help McGhee adjust to life as QB1 in the Columbus. Morgan will also have an added responsibility as the veteran of the wide receivers group to help mentor and develop the young wide receivers the Destroyers add.
“When we die we can’t take things with us. Why not give these young guys what Damian Harrell, Marcus Nash, and Bobby Sippio gave me. I’ve been around some top notch receivers in this league, and when they gave me the knowledge I ran with it. Now it’s my turn to give it to these young guys and allow them to be great,” Morgan said.
Morgan has experience playing with two other members of the Destroyers, defensive end Derrick Summers and defensive back Larico Stevenson. “Rico hit me and said, D-Mo where you going, I said Columbus, and he said say no more brother. And we have more that are coming too we’ve got a few more big names on the way,” Morgan said.
Off the field, Morgan runs his own clothing line company “I Don’t Need Your Motivation.” Morgan started the company in 2014 while he was playing in the AFL, and the company has clothes available on their online store.
“The company is doing really well, we’re doing a re-branding right now but by the time we hit the field you’ll see I Don't Need Your Motivation towels, hats, and a lot of other things. Everything about me is I Don’t Need Your Motivation, I am my brand, and I will represent my brand well,” Morgan said.
Morgan currently has 290 receiving touchdowns which is fifth all time in the AFL, 12,732 receiving yards which is 7th all time, and 907 receptions which is the ninth highest in AFL history. He’ll have the opportunity to place even higher on each list this season solidifying his future as an AFL Hall of Famer.
“What they should expect from Captain Morgan this year is the Mamba Mentality. It’s be great and dominate everyone that’s in front of me, which is only me. No disrespect to any defensive back out there but I’m not competing against them, I’m competing against me. I’m going to give the fans what they expect of me and even more, I’m leaving it all out there on the field this year I’m giving my blood sweat and tears, and I want them to expect greatness. I can’t settle for anything less, and that won’t only be from me, but from the whole team,” Morgan said.