He’s rubbed elbows with LeBron James. Received a job offer from Jim Tressel.
And he’s now teaching the next generation of leaders at Washington High School in Massillon.
David Lee Morgan Jr. spent more than 20 years in journalism before becoming a teacher.
The 1984 Warren Harding High School graduate spent the bulk of his career as a sportswriter for the Akron Beacon Journal.
“I always wanted to be a sports writer,” said Morgan, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University in professional writing and editing with a minor in journalism. “Growing up in the ’70s, I loved the ‘Odd Couple’ and Oscar Madison. He would have the hat on backwards pounding out a story with a cigar in his mouth. That’s what I wanted to be.”
During his 15 years at the Beacon Journal, Morgan won several awards for his coverage of high school sports, including the James A. Sutherland Award, which is given to the top rookie reporter in Northeast Ohio. He also was named the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Writer of the Year in 2004, 2007 and 2009.
It was while covering the St. Vincent-St. Mary High School basketball team that he got to know LeBron James, who would go on to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to the franchise’s first NBA championship title in 2016.
The encounters inspired his first book, “LeBron James: The Rise of A Star.” Morgan would go on to write seven more books.
He left the Beacon Journal in 2010.
“I felt like I had done everything,” he said. “I had covered all levels, from amateur sports to high school to college and pro.”
He also had begun visiting schools and speaking to students about the importance of writing.
“The more I started doing it, the more I began to think that this would be great and I would love to do this as a second career,” he recalled.
Morgan created a character development program that he called MVP, Most Valuable Person Youth Character and Literacy, that he offered to teens who were transitioning out of the Summit County foster care system. Morgan said the program was based Jim Tressel’s book, “The Winners Manual: For the Game of Life.” The book, which Tressel wrote when he was the head football coach at Ohio State University, emphasizes the fundamental characteristics needed to succeed, such as attitude, discipline, toughness, humility and gratitude.
“Coach Tressel would say, ‘If you could incorporate those into your life, then being successful would be a byproduct,’ ” Morgan said.
Morgan offered the program for about a year until he received a call from Tressel, who had become president of Youngstown State University in 2014. Tressel was looking for someone to serve as a development officer at the university.
After two years at Youngstown State, Morgan was ready to return to the classroom. He obtained his alternative teaching license and joined Massillon City Schools in 2016 as a high school English teacher.
Morgan now teaches sophomore-level English, a senior-level writing workshop and journalism, including serving as the adviser for the school’s student newspaper, the Tiger Eyes News. He also is an assistant boys freshman basketball coach.
Next year, Morgan expects to teach two journalism classes as the number of students taking his class is expected to more than double to 27.
“I am so happy,” Morgan said. “I can’t even explain how lucky and blessed I am to wake up every day and go to high school.”
When he’s not in the classroom, the 53-year-old enjoys spending time with his wife, Jill, their blended family of seven adult children and their chocolate Labrador, D.J.
MORGAN’S LOCAL FAVORITES:
Most unique or unusual Stark County product: “The Canton bricks that we kept when workers dug up the 12th Street bridge (Serpentine Hill.) The two bricks we kept date back to the 1930s, and we have them on our mantle as book ends because they look practically new.”
Favorite volunteer opportunity: “My wife and I have been volunteers for the autograph committee during the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival weekend for the past several years. This will be my fourth year, but my wife has been a volunteer for seven. She actually got me on the committee. It’s a great experience, and we’re proud to be part of the Hall of Fame volunteer staff.”
Favorite theater performance group: The dancers from the Canton Ballet’s Touchdowns and Tutus.
Favorite spot to workout: “Because we live across the street from Monument Park, we usually walk to the McKinley Monument and do the steps.”
Favorite restaurant: Grinders Above & Beyond on Whipple Avenue NW.
Most admired CEO or business owner: Pete Russell, the owner of Pete’s Restaurant on Tuscarawas Street W.
Favorite place to shop locally: Becky’s Obsession Antiques in Massillon and any Goodwill or thrift store.
Favorite spot to grab a drink: George’s Lounge
Favorite event: The Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival parade, induction, game and all the festivities.