The season hasn’t started yet, but Niceville native and ‘88 Eagles’ state championship football team member Taylor Morton is already back in the game. The member of the 1988 Niceville Eagles State Champion Football Team and the only* Niceville Alumni with a Super Bowl Ring (that I could find through my research) has plenty to do.
[$5 to the first person who can tell me another person who’s won a super bowl and is an Alum of NHS! – email@example.com]
*Update: One other Niceville High Alum has a Super Bowl Ring. Ricky Thomas, class of ’83, was an coach with the Indianapolis Colts when they won a Super Bowl in 2006. Neal Tate pointed this out to me – and I owe him $5.
Anyway, when I called him, the Super Bowl Champion LA Rams Senior Personnel Executive was driving from Athens, Georgia – where he scouted the Georgia Bulldogs – to Clemson, South Carolina – where he would take in the Tigers’ practice.
Now, Morton and the rest of the NFL’s defending champion LA Rams must prepare for the 2023 draft to ensure continued success for a long way into the future.
Morton and the rest of the Rams players and team personnel received their Super Bowl Rings – now, he and the rest of the scouts scour the training grounds from Spokane to Coral Gables in search of the next diamond in the rough.
Morton is thrilled to be back out looking for players to take the Rams to their 3rd Super Bowl. “My passion is doing the player evaluation,” Morton said, “And actual scouting, going into schools, looking at talent, trying to figure out the human being”
There is a curse on many super bowl-winning teams. For some, they go from the top of the pile one year to the outside-looking-in the next. Only seven teams in history have made it back to the Super Bowl and won a second time in a row.
It’s the only goal for Morton and the Rams. “I think just getting back to the playoffs and trying to make another run is the most important thing,” Morton said. “You know, we went to the Super Bowl after the 2018 season and didn’t make the playoffs in the 2019 season. Our goal is to be able to get back, have a successful season, a winning season and be a playoff team. After that, you just have to see what happens.”
The landscape of college football – where the vast majority of players for the National Football League’s draft come from the NCAAs football teams. Of the players in the NFL, only about a third come from outside the traditional powerhouses – the Power Five Conferences.
There are three major changes taking place in these conferences and in all of college football which have Morton curious about the future of finding players for the Rams: Conference Realignment, the transfer portal and the NIL.
Many college football teams are moving around. In the past, most prominent and successful teams are in conferences that allow them to pool their money, get better TV deals and guarantee rivalry games which bring in big money for schools’ athletic departments. Schools’ football teams also happen to guarantee plenty of exposure of the school to potential students. Schools have recently realigned or will soon realign in order to squeeze the most money out of TV deals or sponsorships. This means schools that previously only rarely played each other will now play more frequently, and could shake up how scouts like Morton will evaluate players.
Plus, plenty of players move around now. In the not-so-recent-past, college players who wanted to move to another school would have to sit out at least one year. Now, players can transfer a single time without any penalty, so long as they notify their school before a set deadline. The new transfer portal rule has allowed for and created a lot of school switching in college sports.
The other variable Morton will watch closely, the Name-Image-Likeness (NIL) deals college players can sign. These deals allow them to make money, lots of money, while they are still playing college football. Alabama Quarterback Bryce Young already makes more than the NFL rookie minimum through his numerous sponsorships with companies. The rookie minimum salary, by the way, is a cool $705,000 per year.
While these variables could change how the scouting process works out in the future, the Rams will continue what they are doing now: looking under every single possible rock for good talent. “I think for us, in our evaluation process, we’re gonna go wherever, wherever we think the talent is. We draft big school guys, we draft SEC guys, we’ve drafted small school guys. We’re gonna find them wherever they are. And then we’ll just kind of see with conference realignment going forward.”
All in all, it means there are a lot of changes and some uncertainty on the horizon. Uncertainty that Morton and the rest of the Rams organization plan to respond to appropriately.
Morton also talked a bit about the upcoming football season here in Okaloosa County. Morton is a big fan of his high school alma mater and tries to watch the Eagles play whenever he can. The
game he’s looking forward to: Niceville versus Choctaw. Morton says that the Indians looked very good in spring ball when he watched the team. “I think Choctaw is going to be a lot better, they were very impressive,” Morton said, “I saw some good football being played by both teams at the Jamboree.”
Additionally, Morton says the fact that both teams are coached by school alumni gives it an even more exciting air. “You can just see the passion, with those guys taking on the helm at their former schools. It just means more,” said Morton.
The Eagles will visit the Indians in Fort Walton Beach on September 23rd. You can see the Eagles full schedule here.