By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter
The most successful quarterback in the history of the University of Minnesota football program is Ryle High School graduate Tanner Morgan. The Gophers have a 33-14 record in games that he started, including victories in three post-season bowls.
On Thursday, Minnesota will take on Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York City, but Morgan’s status remains a mystery after sitting out his team’s final three regular season games due to an upper body injury.
Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck was asked about Morgan’s chances of playing in the final game of his college career during an online interview that was posted on Dec. 22.
“Definitely a possibility,” Fleck said. “He’s doing great. He’s been at practice, practicing what seems like the old Tanner, so definitely a possibility.”
The Pinstripe Bowl that’s set to begin at 1 p.m. Thursday will be nationally televised on ESPN. It would provide an ideal stage for Morgan’s to close out his remarkable college career.
The veteran quarterback has set numerous Minnesota team records since he played in his first game as a redshirt freshman in 2018.
He was a starter in 45 consecutive games over five seasons before being sidelined by a concussion on the final play of the first half against Illinois on Oct. 15.
The 6-foot-2, 210 pound graduate student returned two weeks later and led the Gophers to victory once again, giving him a 33-14 record as the team’s starting quarterback. But he was injured in the next game and sat out the final three weeks of the regular season.
Minnesota won two of those last three games with red-shirt freshman Athan Kaliakmanis at quarterback. He will line up behind center on Thursday if Morgan isn’t able to take the field.
“He’s done a lot for our program,” Fleck once said. “I don’t think people value enough what Tanner Morgan has done for the University of Minnesota.”
Fleck was head coach at Western Michigan when he recruited Morgan following his junior season at Ryle. The young quarterback completed his high school career with passing totals of 10,303 yards and 104 touchdowns.
When Fleck was hired as Minnesota’s head coach in 2017, Morgan decided to go there and play for him. As a red-shirt freshman, he started the last six games of the 2018 season, including a win over Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl.
During his 45-game streak as the starting quarterback, the Gophers also won bowl games against Auburn in 2019 and West Virginia in the 2021 while setting a plethora of team passing records.
His career passing totals of 9,396 yards and 63 touchdowns should impress NFL scouts. He has completed 657 of 1,056 passes for 62.2 percent with 32 interceptions. In eight games this season, he has passed for 1,324 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions. He’s also added 63 rushing yards and a career-high four TDs on 32 carries.
Morgan’s current completion percentage of 67.3 percent is on pace to break his own school record of 63.2 set in 2019. He also set single-season team records in passing yards (3,253) and touchdown passes (30) that year.
Morgan was one of three finalists for this year’s Danny Wuerffel Trophy that honors college football players who serve others and have a positive impact on society. He is actively involved in Minnesota’s team charitable efforts and spends time with young hospital patients to share his zest for life with those around him.
The press release announcing Morgan’s nomination described him as a “man of faith who consistently uses his platform as a college athlete to uplift others and spread positivity to his community.”