Morgan Flournory got his football coach to sign his senior yearbook.
“Thank you for reminding me of the one mistake I’ve ever made. K.I.T.,” — Coach Tom McHugh.
“I’ll never let him forget,” said Flournory, who, at defensive end, set the Pasco County single-season sack record with 22 ˝ in 2012. “Nope. Not ever.”
See, Flournory wasn’t a starter. Not during Pasco High’s spring game in 2012, nor in the preseason game at Brooksville Hernando in August. It wasn’t until the latter game that McHugh realized his oversight.
“I don’t know what I was looking for,” McHugh said. “He never talked. He’s not a verbal leader. He just did what he did. I guess I was looking for more of a talker. … But at that position, he’s one of the best I’ve ever had.”
Flournory, who was also playing in the shadow of fellow defensive lineman and now Florida freshman Joey Ivie, said those two games were his motivation, looking to prove everyone, including his coaches, wrong.
“I had a chip on my shoulder and I played with it all season,” Flournory said. “I bulked up and just wanted to prove everyone they were wrong about me.”
Flournory, who graduated May 31, enrolled at Pasco-Hernando Community College, where he’ll earn his AA in a year, then enroll at USF. He opted out of playing college football.
Flournory was set up to play for Cornell College, a private school in Mount Vernon, Iowa, that plays Division III athletics. However, the school would pay only half of the tuition and Flournory and his family would have to pay the rest.
“I didn’t want to go into debt for the rest of my life to play four more years of football,” Flournory said. “My mom said we couldn’t afford it, and I didn’t want to do that be paying for it years from now. … It’s disappointing after the year I had, but it was about the money we didn’t have.”
Flounory not only broke the Pirates sack record (18 by lineman Kirk Moats in 2002), but also the county-record of 19 by Wesley Chapel’s Jason Boyd in 2001. McHugh coached Boyd during his time with the Wildcats. Similarly, Boyd had a chance to play in college — Division II Valdosta State — and never did.
“Morgan is a tweener,” McHugh said of the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Flournory. “He’s not big enough for what coaches are looking for and he’d probably play outside linebacker more than defensive line. He’s one of those kids that can’t afford it and didn’t want to go into debt in Iowa.”
“He’s not your prototypical lineman, but he was effective and he got the job done,” Pirates defensive line coach Pat Fortunato said. “(Him opting not to play in college) is what he wants, or has to do, and we all might say something different, but you have to, and I do, respect his decision.”
It will be hard for McHugh to forget his mistake when he’ll be constantly reminded of it this upcoming season. Flournory plans to return, after a successful spring session, as a volunteer assistant, helping Fortunato coach the defensive line on varsity and helping coach JV, as well. That’ll come in handy for Fortunato, who now coach Morgan’s younger brother, junior lineman Connor.
“He’s got some big shoes to fill,” Fortunato said of the 6-foot-2, 170-pound Connor, but added, “It’s huge getting (Morgan) to come back.”
But as much McHugh will see Flournory in the future, the sting of his mistake will fade and, instead, he’ll be rewarded by, finally, admitting it in writing.
“He will continually point it out to me — that’s OK. It is what it is,” McHugh said. “High school coaches don’t get paid that much, but when I get to see guys like him come back — guys like Morgan are how I get paid as a coach.”