Updated at 10 a.m. June 5, 2012
Less than 24 hours after his fatal motorcycle crash, Ryan Morgan was recalled Monday by coaches and Ramona High School players as a humble role model and “the best kid you could imagine having.”
“He personified everything that we wanted in a representative of our football program and our community,” said Jason Matthews, an assistant varsity coach, who called Morgan “the hardest working kid we ever had” in football and track.
Damon Baldwin, athletic director and head football coach, informed players and staff Sunday night via text messages. Others learned the news from Facebook and phone calls.
On Monday, Baldwin asked: “Why does this have to happen? Why does such a good person have to go so early? It’s just not fair.”
Baldwin coached Morgan for four years in football and three years in track and field.
Most recently, the two shared the field when Morgan was home during a break from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, where he hoped to make the varsity team. He was 21 and had attended a prep school tied to West Point.
“The kids all talked about how nice he treated all of them. He treated everyone with so much respect,” Baldwin said. “I always told him: No matter what you do, you’ll be a great coach because you’re so good with people.”
Said Matthews at a spring football practice Monday: “The biggest thing about him was that he was humble. … He was one of the best players we’ve ever had—and you would never know it if you talked to him.”
Freshman football player Brandon Gansch and junior running back Javier Dominguez said they last saw Morgan Friday at practice, where he was a volunteer coach.
“He was my role model, basically,” said Brandon, 15, who as an elementary school student recalled seeing Morgan play. “He always wanted to help people. … I couldn’t believe [the news of the crash]. He was just like a hero to me … a superhero.”
Javier, 16, was a freshman when Morgan was a senior and said: “I just looked up to him like a celebrity. … I was scared to talk to him because he was Ryan Morgan.”
But Morgan put him at ease as a coach in recent weeks.
“He was just everything, you know. Ryan taught us a lot,” Javier said. “I’m just in shock right now.”
Coach Baldwin praised Morgan’s high standards and good character, crediting his parents for raising an outstanding young man and saying that he “touched so many people.”
“Ryan was an all-state track guy, an all-state champion, all-California football player and had a football scholarship to go play for the Army,” Baldwin said.
“Those aren’t all the things that made him great. The thing that made him great was that he was just such a good person. He was raised so well by his parents. His standards of how he lived his life and treated people was the highest level you can be.”
Baldwin said he plans to honor Morgan, a former team captain, during the upcoming football season.
“I’ll definitely be doing some things with the kids this season to honor Ryan,” Baldwin said. “ It’s just the right thing to do.”
A memorial service is set at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 9, at Ramona High School’s Bulldog Stadium, according to Ramona High School.
According to Brian Pennings, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, Morgan was heading northbound on Pamo Road, 1.3 miles north of Pile Street on a 2012 Yamaha R6 motorcycle.
Pennings said Morgan was traveling at an unsafe speed and was unable to negotiate a curve in the roadway.
“He was ejected from the vehicle and suffered major injuries,” Pennings said.
The crash took place at 5:50 p.m. Sunday north of Burma Road, officials said.
“He was airlifted by Mercy Air Helicopter to Palomar Medical Center (in Escondido),” said the county Medical Examiner’s Office. “Despite aggressive surgical resuscitative efforts, he succumbed to his injuries and his death was pronounced in the operating room” at 7:41 p.m.
He was the son of Rheynard and Julie Morgan, according to a West Point player profile.
Morgan rushed for 1,622 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior in 2009, when Ramona went 8-3.
“He rushed for 2,734 yards in his three-year career despite missing five games as a junior with a broken toe,” according to a North County Times story.
Morgan told the paper in 2010 that the Cadets wanted him to play running back.
“It’s a pitch-out offense, and they said they would pitch it to me on the outside,” the paper quoted Morgan as saying. “They told me I’m good at making people miss, and that’s what I'm going to try to do.”
Morgan also was the Valley League champion in the 400 meters and the runner-up in the 200 as a junior, with best times of 48.13 and 22.13 in the long sprints, plus 10.95 in the 100-meter dash.
Twenty-two hours after the crash, Pamo Road showed no obvious signs of the incident, with no marker or tread marks visible.
Motorcyclist Ruben Averilla, a retiree from Rancho Peñasquitos, paused Monday afternoon amid the quiet of Pamo Road.
“These roads are really empty,” said Averilla, 61, after perhaps his visit to the road north of downtown Ramona. Morgan “probably pushed [the] limits a little bit. It’s real easy to lose it around corners.”
Averilla said crashes have happened to friends—“even to the real skilled riders. Every corner is different.”