To the NFL: SRJC softball coach’s son drafted by Cleveland Browns

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Courtesy of profootballfocus.com

Phillip “Scooby” Wright was drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the 250th pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Wright’s dad is the SRJC softball coach.

Albert Gregory, Staff Writer

Scooby Wright once again has to prove everyone wrong.

Philip “Scooby” Wright, who grew up in Windsor and attended Cardinal Newman High School, was selected by the Cleveland Browns as the 250th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Wright was an underrated two-star linebacker recruit coming out of high school. He attended the University of Arizona for three years, playing only two seasons due to injury.

Yet he was regarded as one of the best defensive players in college football during those two years. After suffering a few injuries, his draft stock plummeted. But Wright won’t let that stop him. The 6-foot-1-inch, 245-pound football machine is determined to make his mark in the pros.

He has been underrated and undervalued his entire football career, a fact he continually takes pride in and accepts ownership of. This can be seen in his Twitter handle “@TwoStarScoob.”

Wright got his nickname “Scooby” from his dad, Santa Rosa Junior College’s head softball coach Phil Wright. Wright’s father spent a lot of time growing up mistakenly answering people calling for Wright’s grandad. He was fed up with the confusion and started calling his son “Scoob.”

Wright chose Cardinal Newman and played football there; he said it was a “great experience.”

“I went to private school my whole life and all my friends were going to Newman,” he said.

He was the first person to play junior varsity football as a freshman. His sophomore year, he started every game on varsity, played all defensive-line positons, including nose guard.

“I was really quick and explosive, and the coach basically just told me go get the quarterback and make plays,” Wright said.

In his junior year, Newman lost in the semi-finals. His team still had some really big wins that year, including against Valley Christian, which had seven players go on to play Division I college football.

In his senior year, the Cardinals were undefeated until losing to Rancho Cotate High School. They went on to play the 2016 No. 1 draft pick, Jared Goff, and Marin Catholic High School in the playoffs.

“We were beating them pretty good. We made him throw three picks in the first half,” Wright said.

But in what would become the beginning of a list of injuries, in the third quarter a player rolled up onto the back of Wright’s foot out of bounds, during a play that was essentially over.

“I was one of the main people on defense that year, because I was a pass rusher,” Wright said. “Then I got hurt and they came back and beat us.”

“He was extremely motivated. A pleasant young man to be around but extremely motivated,” said former high school football coach Paul Cronin. “I am really excited for him. He’s got a great family and I’m really happy for all of them.”

Wright credits everyone who’s helped him along the way, including his family and the SRJC football coaches and training staff he practiced with during the offseasons.

“[My family] shaped me into the person I am and showed me how to have a good work ethic, and I think that’s what has made me into the athlete I am today,” Wright said. “It’s just work ethic and having that mentality that you’re not going to get beat.”

Wright’s dad grew up in Healdsburg and also played football at Cardinal Newman. He played for SRJC on its last undefeated team in 1985 and went on to play football for Long Beach State.

“Arizona was hot. They have great people. I love them to death,” Wright’s father said. “Greatest people in the world in Tucson. Scooby loved it there.”

When asked why he was overlooked going into college and now the pros, Wright gave a simple answer.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Wright said. “I understand coming from a small school like Cardinal Newman; not too many guys from Sonoma County go onto play Pac-12 football.”

He believed Arizona was the best place for him to play, because no one else believed in him and wanted to give him a scholarship. But after getting hurt in the game against Marin Catholic, six or seven other schools were hoping Arizona would pull his scholarship and give them a chance at recruiting him. But Arizona stayed committed, so he did the same.

Wright started every game his freshmen year at University of Arizona. In 2014, during his sophomore year he was the only defensive player to finish top 10 in the Heisman votes, coming in ninth. He put up colossal stats that year, recording 163 total tackles, 29 for a loss, 14 sacks, six forced fumbles and one recovered fumble. Many college analysts cite those as arguably the best stats ever put up by an inside linebacker.

He won every defensive award that year, including the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Rotary Lombardi Award, Jack Lambert Award and Chuck Bednarik Award and was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the first player to win that award as a sophomore.

During his junior year, he injured his lateral meniscus in the first game of the season against the University of Texas and came back 17 days after surgery. He tried to play in a game against UCLA, but sprained his right foot and didn’t come back until Arizona’s bowl game against the University of New Mexico, where he was named game MVP.

When Wright returned for the bowl game, he weighed the most he’s ever played at, because he was working out constantly while sitting out.

“I was working out twice a day for like nine weeks straight so I was pushing 255, but I was benching 405 pounds,” Wright said.

On draft day, he had to wait a long time to hear his named get called during the draft.

“Worst and best day of your life,” Wright’s father said about his son waiting that long to be drafted.

Having the support of your family is always helpful for any player and that’s what Wright had, especially from his dad.

“From his agent, to his financial guys, to his attorneys, to everything you can think of regarding the process,” Wright’s father said in regards to dealing with the pre-draft every step of the way with his son. “At the combine he ran a slow 40-[yard dash]. That’s what hurt him. That’s why he dropped so fast. You know the year before he was a first-round guy, and he was a top-10 pick the year before, and then he gets hurt and comes back and has to prove himself all over.”

When any player goes through the NFL draft process, it’s an interesting experience, especially when it comes to interviews given by NFL teams interested in the players.

“Probably the weirdest question I got asked was if you were to kill someone, would you use a knife or a gun,” Wright said he was asked this by one of the teams out of the 15 that interviewed him. “I forget who asked that, to be honest.”

Because of his injuries, Wright only played one game in the last two years, the bowl game against New Mexico.This is another reason why he was drafted so late.

“I’m just excited to get back to football. My body feels good, I’m ready to go play football, to be honest,” Wright said. “I wouldn’t say I was a first-round pick. If you look at Reggie Ragland, who was a great player, he went in the second round. I think I definitely would’ve gone in the top three rounds [if not for the injuries].”

Wright believes the mental side of the game will be the hardest to get used to, because the speed of the game is much faster.

“I think from any level you jump up to, from playing football in Pop Warner, to high school, to college, to the pros, it’s always a step faster and that takes a couple weeks of getting used to,” Wright said. “I think that’s just the nature of the beast, but I’m excited for it, to be honest. I just want to go play football.”

Wright’s goal is to start soon and believes he has a great opportunity. He wants to go in and do the best he can with no regrets; continuing his underdog mentality.

Wright, who will wear No. 50 in the pros, admits he plays with a chip on his shoulder, and believes that chip has gotten even bigger after the draft.

“Oh yeah the chip is not there; it’s a boulder now,” Wright’s father said. “I think he is going to go in there and work his ass off. He’ll be great in the film room and fast with his eyes.”

His dad thinks Wright needs to stay consistently fast; whether it’s his feet or his eyes, he needs to be as fast as or faster than everyone else. His father also thinks having the bigger and faster guys on the D-line playing in front of him, which he has never had before, can only help his improvement in the NFL.

“He’ll have to just prove himself in Cleveland, just go in there and work like he always does,” Wright’s father said. “I mean perfect situation, new coaching staff, they’re going to want the guys they drafted to play and make them look good, so hopefully Scooby will step into a good situation.”

He’s faced off against Jared Goff in high school, college and now has a chance to play him in the pros.

“After the high school game, [Goff] came up to me and said to me we would’ve lost if you’d played [the whole game],” Wright said in reference to the Marin Catholic loss. “And then in college, I said I ain’t losing to you again.”

Wright and Goff both started as true freshmen and Wright had his best game that year against Goff, recording 11 total tackles and three for a loss. He followed that up the next year with an even more impressive 18 total tackles; four for a loss and two sacks.

“The difference is you have two great players that come out of Northern California, one goes No. 1 and Scooby almost goes last. I mean it’s ridiculous,” Wright’s father said. “He’ll prove them all wrong. He don’t know how to fail. They didn’t give him No. 50 for no reason.”