From on-ice enforcer to offensive lineman, James has sights on NFL
Morgan James as a Metro Jet, left, and a University of Cincinnati offensive lineman. “I can still skate,” he says.
At 29, Morgan James is a bit older than most college football players.
His background is also a bit different than that of most of his teammates and opponents.
A Commerce Township native, the 6-5, 325-pound University of Cincinnati offensive lineman is a former professional hockey player. He played in the Southern Professional Hockey League and Federal Hockey League in 2011-12 season, after skating with the Metro Jets of the North American 3 Hockey League and the Tri-City IceHawks of the Great Lakes Junior Hockey League the previous campaign.
So how did James go from being a 21-year-old enforcer on the ice to a collegiate offensive lineman, who is 70 pounds heavier, in less than 10 years?
To begin with, he hated working 9-to-5 after retiring from pro hockey, so he decided to go to college and earn a degree.
The football angle happened a little differently.
“A close friend of mine was working with a guy, Jim Browne, who was training football players at Athletes Edge USA” in Waterford Township, James told Red Line Editorial, Inc. “He saw me and how big I was, and that I was in good shape. He said that I was a beast, and that I should try playing football.”
He made the Bearcats’ football team as a walk on and redshirted in 2015. The next season, he played in 10 games as a backup, and in 2017 he was a backup and special team’s player.
James started all 13 games last season at right guard as the Bearcats went 11-2, winning the Military Bowl over Virginia Tech.
Now a fifth-year senior and graduate student finishing up his MBA, James anchors the offensive line for Cincinnati, which is 5-1 overall and tied for first place in the American Athletic Conference’s American East Division.
His next goal: to play in the NFL.
“If you had asked me six years ago if I might play in the NFL, I would have said no way,” James said. “Now … I plan on exhausting everything in football, to my full potential.”
He says being a hockey player has helped him as an offensive lineman.
“It created a good base for my legs, and balance is important for an offensive lineman,” James said. “Playing low and such. Hockey definitely helped prepare me.”
When asked how he has been able to gain so much weight over the years, James said: “A lot of shakes, a lot of steaks!”
Will we ever see the offensive lineman, who once skated for the Lakeland Hawks as a Youth hockey player, on the ice again?
“I can still skate,” James said. “And I have some tricks up my sleeves.”