Some Things Never Change: UF Alum Returns To Call Florida Gators Game On Saturday
Twenty-five years in the industry, and Mike Morgan’s family still doesn’t have a firm understanding of what he does for a living.
“I come from a family of artists,” Morgan says. “The gift of gab was something my family had, but they were never sports fans.”
Meanwhile, Morgan grew up playing every sport under the sun and coming home to turn on ESPN instead of cartoons.
It helped that Morgan grew up in West Palm Beach in the 1980s, while any football team hailing from Miami was wreaking havoc in its respective league.
But turning his cheek to Dan Marino and Vinny Testaverde came easy. His brother had gone to school at Auburn, therefore, he had gotten a taste for the SEC.
“I learned at an early age what SEC football was all about,” Morgan said. “I knew the history of Auburn-Alabama, I knew Johnny Majors at Tennessee… I knew just everything about that conference was unique.”
And paired with his comfort in front of a camera or on a microphone, Morgan’s path to sports broadcasting unfolded before his eyes pretty quickly.
When the time came to pick a university, the choice was pretty clear.
Not only did it make sense economically to stay in-state, but the University of Florida had a state of the art broadcasting school (and still does, Morgan attests).
And, to sweeten the deal, Florida had recently brought in a firestorm of a football coach in Steve Spurrier when Morgan arrived to campus.
“I still find myself trying to explain to the younger generation what a Rockstar and what an innovator Steve Spurrier was at Florida,” Morgan said.
Unlike most UF students, Morgan didn’t spend his time tailgating before the game or cheering in the stands during the game. Instead, he slaved away collecting content for the postgame show he might be hosting, or prepared for postgame interviews. Yet, he still got to watch the visor-donning mastermind revolutionize how football is played in the conference he grew up loving.
“As someone who grew up watching SEC football, it was all about run, run, run… control the line of scrimmage, outrun your opponent, play nasty defense and that was the formula to win” Morgan said.
Many members of the younger generation recognize that Spurrier won lots of football games and SEC titles at various stops throughout his career. However, many lack the understanding of just how big of an impact Spurrier had on the game of football as we know it.
And now, just as we all do, Morgan gets to watch the post-Spurrier dance of college football on Saturdays. Except, he watches from the press box.
Morgan joined ESPN in 2009, where he calls college football games, in addition to college basketball and baseball games for the SEC Network.
"For SEC fans, having an announcer who knows about the league and has a lifelong background in the league, it just means more," Morgan says.
Residing in Atlanta, Morgan was also found on air covering spring training games for the Atlanta Braves, as well as being the voice of the AAA Gwinnett Braves. However, he has since given that up to focus on television with the worldwide leader in sports.
But on Saturday, Morgan will be in the press box of The Swamp calling the Florida-Missouri game. The same place where it all started.
But first, a pit stop to Weimer Hall, the home of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications – the real place it all started.
While in town, Morgan will stop by his old stopping grounds to offer wisdom to current telecom students at UF. After all, he has been in their shoes and remembers his time there fondly.
“I was never in a fraternity,” Morgan says. “I was never all about that life. My fraternity were the broadcasting students I was working with. We all got to know each other well, we all hung out well, we all supported each other as we graduated and went looking for that first job. So that comradery, that fellowship is something that I cherish to this day.”
And if you take a visit to Sonny’s BBQ in Gainesville this week, you might run into Morgan. Anytime he’s in town, he tries to pay the Gainesville-bred barbeque joint a visit.
“We don’t have those in Atlanta. We don’t have those when I’m back home visiting family in West Palm,” Morgan says. “So whenever I’m in Gainesville, there’s always a mandatory stop at Sonny’s BBQ. It used to be The Swamp until they bulldozed that down. I’m running out of options that have been around for a long time, frankly.”
Indeed, a lot has changed since Morgan left Gainesville and embarked on his journey as a sports broadcaster. However, there are some things that are the same.
The SEC still means more. College football is Steve Spurrier football. The College of Journalism and Communications still carries a family-like culture. And Sonny’s BBQ still serves a mean pulled pork sandwich.