Spring 2021 Magazine

Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan praising God while leading undefeated Gophers

In the biggest game of his career, Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan delivered a near-perfect performance. Morgan completed 18 of his 20 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns in the No. 17 Golden Gophers’ 31-26 victory over No. 4 Penn State on Saturday.

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The win moved Minnesota to 9-0 on the season and moved the team up to the No. 7 spot in this week’s AP and Coaches poll. It is the first time since 1962 the Golden Gophers are ranked in the top 10 in both polls, and the first time since 1904 that Minnesota is 9-0.

Even with the incredible success Morgan and his teammates have achieved this season, the sophomore QB says his identity remains rooted in Christ.

“Understanding that your identity is not in a sport, it’s in who you are as a person,” Morgan told the Minneapolis Star Tribune before the season. “For me, that’s my relationship with Christ. That’s my end-all be-all. Football’s not the world to me. It means the world to me, like, I love it. It’s my passion in life. But it doesn’t define who I am.”

Morgan originally committed to play for coach P.J. Fleck at Western Michigan. But when Fleck took the Minnesota job, he asked the Union, Kent., native if he wanted to join him in Minneapolis. Morgan said “yes” without hesitation.

“The first time I was in Minnesota was when I enrolled,” Morgan said in an interview with The Athletic. “I didn’t know anything about the state. But, I mean, it was definitely God working and putting me here for a reason. Extremely grateful that Coach gave me that opportunity.”

After Zack Annexstad beat out Morgan for the starting quarterback job at the beginning of last season, Morgan’s roommate, tight end Jake Paulson, went to see how Morgan was doing. Morgan’s response blew Paulson away.

“He was like, ‘It’s God’s plan. It’s not on me,’” Paulson told the Tribune. “He has a very strong faith. … And so that’s a huge part, which I think personally is what keeps him grounded on such a daily basis.”

Morgan started the final six games of the 2018 season after Annexstad got hurt and led the Golden Gophers to a 4-2 record. In 15 career starts, he is 13-2 and with 30 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions. Through nine games in 2019, Morgan has completed 67.9 percent of his passes and thrown for 2,100 yards, 21 TDs and just four interceptions for a 191.o passer rating, which ranks fourth in the country (behind leading Heisman candidates Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow).

Up next for Minnesota is a trip to Iowa City to take on the 18th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on FOX.

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