TUCSON, Ariz. — Three months ago, the name Scooby Wright meant nothing to Arizona football fans. Flash-forward to the second week of the season, and the Wildcats’ linebacker is being swarmed by the media.
Bring up the name Scooby around any of the Arizona football players and their faces light up. This isn’t about their favorite childhood cartoon — they’re animated because of how hard their true freshman linebacker plays. His relentless motor has earned him a starting spot at linebacker and could someday make him one of the best in the conference.
“He’ll be an all-Pac-12 linebacker someday,” senior linebacker Jake Fischer said after the Wildcats’ 35-0 victory over NAU last Friday.
Wright finished his first college game with six tackles, tied for second-most on the team, and has only continued to gain praise from his teammates and coaches in the days following the victory.
Wright’s birth name is Phillip Wright III, while “Scooby” is a nickname his dad gave him when he was young.
Despite his attention-grabbing name, the Wildcats’ starting outside linebacker wasn’t a top Arizona recruit from the 2013 class. Rivals.com only gave the 6-foot-1,230-pound Wright a two-star ranking, putting him as one of the lower-ranked recruits for the class.
California was the only other Pac-12 school that showed any interest at all in the Santa Rosa, Calif., native.
Scouts were impressed by his athleticism, strength and instincts but were worried that he couldn’t play in space and expected him to redshirt before making any kind of impact at the Division I level.
But what the scouts didn’t see was Wright’s drive and effort.
“Man, Scooby just gives you 110 percent,” junior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant said. “He never stops moving. He’s constantly hustling, chasing down the ball and making plays.”
Coming into fall camp, Wright didn’t let his unknown status stop him from giving his full effort. His father, a coach, taught Wright at an early age that if he worked hard, in time his exertion would help him overcome any failures.
“My dad has always told me if you’re going to mess up, do it 110 percent,” Wright said.
But this time, Wright profited quickly.
During Arizona’s first defensive series, Wright said he felt like he was flying around a little too fast and was out of control. But he said that after a break on the sideline, he remembered that this was the same sport he excelled at in high school, and calmed down.
Relaxing might have helped Wright to focus, but his drive is who he is as a player. Head coach Rich Rodriguez has said he’s amazed at his freshman’s natural instincts and believes he could put Wright at any position on the field and watch him succeed.
However, Wright said he’s not interested in playing other positions. Now that he is finally starting to grasp that he is a Division I starting linebacker as a freshman, he wants to take it slow — but that doesn’t mean he’ll play slow.
“Giving it my all is just in my nature,” Wright said. “I don’t see any reason not to go out and give my 110 percent — it’s got me pretty far.”
•This story was courtesy of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.