Leadership is earned through hard work and determination, even if one faces great difficulties in life. Paul Morgan is a leader.
Morgan, 24, a senior and public administration major, suffers from a condition known as keratoconus.
Keratoconus is a degeneration of the structure of the cornea, the clear tissue covering the front of the eye, according to the National Library of Medicine. In people with keratoconus, the cornea slowly changes from the normal round shape to a cone shape.
“It can’t be fixed by Lasik,” said Morgan. “Basically what happens is your cornea gets elongated, which leads to really severe astigmatism. When I’m on the field, I always see multiples of the ball.”
When Morgan was a sophomore in high school he started noticing during games he could not see the crowd very well and later on even the board in his classes.
Morgan’s parents took him to the optometrist and he was diagnosed with keratoconus.
Morgan initially dismissed the diagnosis and believed contact lenses would fix the problem.
Unfortunately, even with contacts, the keratoconus became so bad that he could not see anything in class, Morgan said.
Because keratoconus is a degenerative disease, and contacts shape themselves into the form of your eyes, there is not much that can be done after a period of time.
As things got worse, Morgan began to dig deeper and find as much information as he could about keratoconus.
“Paul started looking for doctors,” said Wade Morgan, Paul’s father. “Once he knew the name of what he had, he started looking into it.”
Morgan went to a renowned optometry specialist, Dr. Boxer Wachler, located in Beverly Hills, and underwent three surgeries in one procedure.
The operation on Morgan was successful, and while he still continues to make visits annually, his eyesight could have gotten much worse if not for Dr. Wachler, Morgan’s father said.
Though Morgan’s eyesight will never be the same, the keratoconus has stabilized. Morgan still has trouble vision, sometimes seeing multiple balls on the field during a game.
“I just kind of push through it,” Morgan said.
When he was younger, Morgan was inspired by Karl Rohlin, the head lacrosse coach at Great Oak High School in Temecula.
Rohlin’s work with kids back in Morgan’s youth pushes Morgan to work hard with his own group of lacrosse youths back home in Fallbrook, a small community near northern San Diego.
“I’ve never told any of my teammates that I have keratoconus,” Morgan said. “I didn’t want my teammates to think that if I dropped the ball or miss a pass it was because I couldn’t see the ball.”
Morgan said he has always pushed himself harder on the field because of the keratoconus.
Last year, Kyle Morrison, the former lacrosse coach, left the team.
“The coach stepped down, and he did a lot at the end of the last season, he was in the program for the last three years,” Morgan said. “I probably wouldn’t be the lacrosse player I am now without a lot of his guidance.”
Because lacrosse at Cal State Fullerton is a club sport, it is player-run. Morgan, as team president, took on Morrison’s administrative role for the team.
Morgan handled all the scheduling for the spring games, fall-ball scheduling and practice schedules over the summer.
Nicholas Lioi, 21, psychology major, has been a teammate of Morgan for the last two years.
“He’s a leader out there on the field,” said Lioi. “If you need to get something done, you can always rely on Paul to do it.”
As well as being a full-time student athlete, Morgan works hard behind the scenes to get things done for the lacrosse team, Lioi said.
“He’s (Morgan) given a lot back to the community, especially where he’s from,” Lioi said. “He’s coached teams back out in Fallbrook, I know he’s coached a lot of other teams.”
Christian Wheeler, 25, a senior economics major, has been on the team with Morgan and knows the time and effort Morgan has devoted.
“He’s (Morgan) a hard worker,” said Wheeler. “He’s always trying to get better, he’s always trying to make the team work toward a consistent goal.”
Wheeler has gotten to know Morgan on and off the field over the years and knows the work Morgan has put into the team.
“He’s (Morgan) taken care of a lot of administrative stuff for the team,” Wheeler said.
While the team is looking for a new head coach, Wheeler and another graduate student will be helping out as a head coach for the team. They will attend conferences as representatives for the team.
Morgan has put a lot of time, energy and focus into coordinating things for the lacrosse team.
“It’s been a little bit overwhelming, but I love this sport so much,” Morgan said about taking part in his last year of lacrosse. “I don’t want to regret not giving 100 percent to the sport that I’ve been a part of since I was 15 in high school.”