- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001

After playing for rival high schools, starring for two of college football's premier programs and signing with the same agent, Dan Morgan and Steve Hutchinson find themselves paired on the Washington Redskins' wish list.

Middle linebacker Morgan and guard Hutchinson are the top prospects in this weekend's NFL Draft at their positions. The Redskins could use a starter at both spots. And if Morgan and Hutchinson are gone by the time Washington selects 15th, the next best at each position probably wouldn't be worth the pick.

Actually, there's a good chance Morgan and Hutchinson will go early and the Redskins will choose a wide receiver, probably Clemson's Rod Gardner or Miami's Santana Moss. But the club has myriad options in this deep draft and could trade its pick or even go with a cornerback or a defensive tackle at No. 15.

If things fall right, the Redskins almost certainly would get a standout starter in Morgan, winner of the Butkus, Nagurski and Bednarik awards last season at Miami, or Hutchinson, a four-time first-team All-Big Ten selection at Michigan.

Other high-picking teams have the same dual need as Washington, particularly Green Bay (No. 10) and Jacksonville (No. 13).

In 1995, few would have guessed that Morgan and Hutchinson would be competing for such lofty attention; back then, they simply were competing on the field in their hometown of Coral Springs, Fla.

Morgan was a junior at Taravella High School that fall, Hutchinson a senior at rival Coral Springs, and they lived just a few minutes apart. Battling for the Mayor's Cup, Morgan recalls, "We got the best of them."

The two weren't close friends then and aren't more than acquaintances now, but there's a good bit of familiarity. Both were among a standout crop of signings this winter by Kansas City-based agent Tom Condon, and they have seen each other at events like the Super Bowl.

"Steve looks the same as he did in high school," Morgan said in a phone interview. "He's the exact same size."

Hutchinson's teammates said similar things at the NFL Combine in February.

"When he came to Michigan, he could do 25 [repetitions of the 225-pound weight]," Wolverines tackle Jeff Backus (another likely first-rounder) said. "It's in his genes. You should see his dad. He almost breaks your hand when he shakes it."

Hutchinson wasn't available for comment this week, but at the combine he spoke about rejoining Redskins right tackle Jon Jansen. The pair spent two seasons starting together at Michigan, three in the same tight group of linemen. Jansen's wife, Martha, used to cook lasagna for them on "movie night," a tradition Wolverines linemen still uphold.

Hutchinson didn't hesitate to call Jansen his NFL role model.

"What Jon did, it gives me hope," Hutchinson said. "He's a great player. I try to emulate a guy like Jon Jansen."

If Hutchinson, 23, joined Jansen, the Redskins would have a young line with high potential. Jansen starts at tackle with Chris Samuels, the third overall pick in last year's draft. Slated to start at right guard is Mookie Moore, a powerful but raw fourth-rounder a year ago. At center is veteran Cory Raymer, returning from a torn ACL.

However, Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer professes the conventional wisdom that teams shouldn't spend first-round picks on interior linemen. It's hard to tell whether that belief can be overcome by Hutchinson's talent and strength (he did 31 repetitions of the 225-pound weight at the combine, just short of Moore's combine-high 34 last year).

More likely is Schottenheimer selecting Morgan. He took five linebackers in the first round as coach of the Cleveland Browns (1984-88) and the Kansas City Chiefs (1989-97). In Morgan, 22, Schottenheimer would get a tough, mature middle 'backer with the speed of a running back.

Pair him with LaVar Arrington, the second overall pick in last year's draft, and Shawn Barber, a talented three-year pro, and the loss of defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield (to the salary cap) and middle linebacker Derek Smith (to San Francisco) might be neutralized.

Perhaps most impressive among Morgan's attributes is leadership, which reportedly has Browns coach Butch Davis his former coach at Miami considering him with the third overall pick.

"[Being considered a leader] definitely makes me proud," Morgan said. "I've always been taught to be a leader, not a follower. I want to set the example out there."

Morgan didn't hesitate when asked if he's surprised to be a potential top 10 pick, saying, "There was never a doubt in my mind." But he stopped short of predicting he would go ahead of his high school foe, Hutchinson, for whom he wishes well despite the selections at stake.

"You never know what teams think of you," Morgan said with a laugh. "I just want the best for me and him."

Note The Redskins will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. today to announce that training camp will be held at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. As reported in Friday's editions of The Washington Times, the Redskins are returning to where they trained from 1963 to 1994, before moving to Frostburg, Md., from 1995 to 1999, and Redskin Park last summer.

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