Weber State junior linebacker Anthony Morales earned All-Big Sky Conference second-team honors this season, when he averaged a league-leading 12 tackles per game — third-best in the nation — and served as a team co-captain for the second straight year. The muscular junior from Edmond, Okla., had 48 unassisted tackles, 60 assisted stops and 9.5 tackles for loss, piling up a career-high 23 tackles against Montana — the sixth-most in a game in school history. Deseret News sports writer Randy Hollis recently caught up with Morales.
Q: AS ONE OF A HANDFUL OF WEBER STATE PLAYERS WHO HAIL FROM THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA, HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEEN IN COMING TO PLAY COLLEGE FOOTBALL IN UTAH?
A: "I like it out here. I knew I was going to like it from my trip, actually, and one thing is when you have other guys on the team that can relate with you and with your home, it's pretty easy going somewhere else. So we always talk about it and we always go home together for the breaks. It makes it a lot easier when you come out here with people that you know. Utah's a lot like Oklahoma in many ways, so it's been great and I love the mountains. I'm ready to get on the snowboard here real soon (with a season pass to Snowbasin). I look at it as just kind of a preseason workout every time I go. When I moved out here, I was just like, man, you've got to take advantage of it, so I have been for sure. I'm glad that I got the chance to come up here and play. It's been a great move for me."
Q: WHAT SURPRISED YOU THE MOST ABOUT UTAH ONCE YOU GOT HERE?
A: "You always hear, of course, when you're from another state that everyone's Mormon and they say it's like villages here and all this crazy stuff. So I'm thinking like, what is Utah going to look like? Once I flew in here, though, it's just a normal city. Salt Lake is normal; Ogden is a normal place with normal people. Whatever your faith is, that obviously doesn't matter. You always hear a perception of Utah being kind of a bubble, and it's not at all. I like it a lot; the people are great, and I've enjoyed some great relationships and I might end up staying out here. It's a place I like, and I love the mountains and snowboarding. It's a good place to live and I'm really impressed with how much the people really support their schools here, and they both have an NBA team that they really love and support, too. It's not weird and quirky at all. It's not Miami by any means; there's not as much to do, but hey, I'm out here to get an education and play football, so it's a good place to keep out of trouble."
Q: THE WILDCATS WENT JUST 2-6 IN THE BIG SKY AND 2-9 OVERALL IN 2012. HOW WOULD YOU SUMMARIZE THIS PAST SEASON?
A: "It had a lot of ups and downs. Obviously not winning makes things harder, but just from the beginning, with coach John L. (Smith) leaving and the whole year with the coaching situation, and coach (Jody) Sears did a good job of coming in and calming things down and moving forward. We had a lot of injuries this season and we weren't winning, so it was hard. I just look at it as a blueprint of what we all want to do next year, build from this year and use everything that was negative and turn it into a positive, because it can't really get much worse. I think a lot of the young guys grew up fast this season, so I think it'll be good for us."
Q: WHAT'S YOUR REACTION TO COACH SEARS BEING RETAINED AS HEAD COACH, AND WHAT KIND OF COACH IS HE?
A: "I pretty much knew, I knew he was going to still be on board. That makes it good because we don't have to re-learn a whole new system. It always makes it tough when you bring new people in. There will be a couple of changes here and there, but for the most part I think we just need to learn from our mistakes — as players, as coaches, everybody — and I think now with him having the job, the actual title, he'll be able to take a deep breath and we can start really moving forward into what he wants his program to look like. ... He's a real outgoing guy, he's real close to the players. He's not gonna push you down, break you down or swear at you, but he'll get on us, he definitely will. He'll get on our case. But he's a real positive person and he believes that the more we are positive toward each other the better outcome we'll have. So that's a good thing and it works. He's real big on the little things. It's something I've learned being in college is you do all the little things right and it adds up to the major things in your life. He's done a good job with us on and off the field. I just hope that we can get it together to where we start winning games and everyone else will be happy."
Q: WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO PERSONALLY AND AS A TEAM TO MAKE IT BE A SUCCESSFUL SEASON NEXT YEAR?
A: "For me personally, the biggest thing I'm working on is my leadership, just trying to get everybody on board and everyone doing the right things and doing everything we can to make ourselves better every day, whether it's the offseason, the summer, whatever we're doing. And as a team, I think it all starts with everyone taking accountability to themselves and all of us wanting the same thing. How good do we want to be? It's going to be up to every single person on the team individually and how we're going to follow the coaches and execute our assignments. But in the end, I think hard work is big and I think, after ending the season with a win, which is big, and by winning two of our last four games, it gives us some momentum. Once we learn how to win, we're going to be a really good team. We had games where we looked good and were just a couple of plays away from winning those games — we definitely competed. So once we learn how to win, we're going to be a lot better team."