There was once this lightly recruited, high-motor defender from up in northern California, a bit off the usual football path. His signing with Arizona barely made a ripple.
“He’s my favorite player,” said Arizona freshman linebacker Scooby Wright.
That football player is former UA All-American defensive end Tedy Bruschi from Roseville, Calif., northeast of Sacramento. If he had played in the era of “star” ratings, he likely would have been deemed a two-star recruit.
Wright, from Santa Rosa, about a hour north of San Francisco, was exactly that — a two-star recruit.
Now, this isn’t to suggest that Wright is someday going to become an All-American and NFL hero just because he shares similar geography, that reputed motor and the potential to be a hidden gem. But there is this parallel:
Bruschi, in 1991, started the first game he played at Arizona.
Wright could do the same.
He has been one of the most buzzed-about freshmen of fall camp, working with the first- and second-team units at strong-side linebacker, a spot held most of last season by Sir Thomas Jackson. Wright is also a possibility in the middle as a backup to Jake Fischer.
“He’s a high-motor guy. Has instincts. Understands the game,” said defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Jeff Casteel.
“He’s still learning a little bit, so his head spins, but he’s one of the guys that goes hard. Sometimes it’s in the wrong direction, but he goes hard. He’s made plays in every practice.
“In the linebacker room, the other kids see it — whether they’re other freshmen or seniors. That’s a kid who has made plays.”
Wright (6-1, 235) adds bulk to a linebacker position that was too thin (in terms of weight) and too thin (in terms of depth) last season. Casteel has many more bodies to pick from this season, including three other freshmen who have received positive reviews from head coach Rich Rodriguez.
“I’m just doing what they’re asking me to do,” Wright said. “You can’t go wrong if you follow what they want you to do.”
Wright committed to Arizona in June 2012, ending the recruiting process early before he was even rated by any of the scouting services. The Wildcats were the first major college to offer him a scholarship, and he rewarded that loyalty by dismissing any of the late suitors — Oregon, Boise State, Cal, Utah, Northwestern — that discovered him after his senior season.
The Arizona coaches jumped on Wright so early because it was obvious to Rodriguez they needed to.
“He was one of those guys where you watch five or six plays of his highlights and you say, ‘This is the kind of guy we want,’” Rodriguez said.
“Then you find out more about him, get to know who he is and his family and what he is all about. … He’s been everything we thought and then some. He’s going to play as a true freshman in a lot of roles for us.”
Wright’s commitment was important enough that Casteel flew out in January to meet him for dinner to make sure everything was good. Casteel and Rodriguez took a private jet to have a brunch at the family’s house as Signing Day approached.
“They saw my dogs and stuff,” Wright said. “That was pretty cool.”
Speaking of dogs …
No, Scooby isn’t the first name on Wright’s birth certificate. It’s Phillip. Phillip Wright III.
Let him explain.
“When I was a baby, my dad was like, ‘Oh, my little Scooby-Doo,’” Wright said. “That just stuck ever since that day. My parents haven’t called me Phillip a day in my life.”
When he graduated from Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, his friends started to look around for someone else when he was introduced by his full given name.
“They were like, ‘Who’s that?’” Wright said. “Some of my closest friends, from like fourth grade, didn’t know my name was Phillip. That was pretty funny.”
If his motor translates to productive early playing time, he won’t have trouble making a name for himself at Arizona. Just like that Bruschi kid from more than two decades ago.
Pretty good stuff from a two-star recruit.
“Maybe that’s because of where I lived or people never saw my film. I think there have been only a couple of Division I athletes to come out of my area,” Wright said, trying to explain the low rating.
“I’ve always had a little chip on my shoulder, and I’m sure that helps me out a little bit.”
For more photos of Arizona’s fall camp, check out this photo gallery from goazcats.com.