Two years ago, Scooby Wright was a lightly recruited high school football player in the small northern California town of Windsor.
On Monday, Wright was awarded the Bronko Nagurski Trophy – emblematic of the top defensive player in college football – by the Charlotte Touchdown Club and National Football Writers Association at a banquet at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte.
Wright, a sophomore linebacker at Arizona, won the award over four other finalists: Texas tackle Malcolm Brown, Alabama defensive back Landon Collins, Mississippi defensive back Senquez Golson and Louisville defensive back Gerod Holliman.
When Wright was a senior at Windsor’s Cardinal Newman High, he had no scholarship offers until he finally heard from Arizona. Ignored by other Pac-12 schools, Wright has used the snubs as fuel as he leads the nation this season with 27 tackles for loss and is tied for third with 14 sacks.
“I didn’t have too many colleges knocking on my door – actually none,” until hearing from Arizona, said Wright, who is 6-foot-1, 246 pounds. “So I had a chip on my shoulder and still do to this day.”
Wright said he particularly plays hard against Washington, California and UCLA.
“Certain schools are more ingrained than others,” he said.
Wright’s play helped the Wildcats (10-3) to the Pac-12’s Southern Division championship. They will play Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31.
Where does the name Scooby come from?
“I don’t know,” said Wright, whose birth name is Phillip Wright III. “But my dad and grandpa were both Phils. So they thought that would be too many Phils in the family.”
• Former Maryland and Dallas Cowboys star Randy White won the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award.
• The high school coach of the year award was given posthumously to West Charlotte’s Mo Collins; the community service/scholastic scholarship award to Piedmont quarterback Cameron Tripp; the student-athlete of the year to Marvin Ridge safety Turner Schwartz; the Luke Kuechly Defensive Player of the Year award to South Mecklenburg safety Stephen Griffin; and the Thomas Davis Comeback Player of the Year to offensive lineman Matt Kowalewski of Charlotte Catholic.
• The Pop Warner defensive/scholastic team of the year is the Mallard Creek Chargers Junior Peewees.
• College scholarship recipients: Jason Taylor, linebacker, Catawba; Matt Casey, linebacker, Davidson; Lucas Beatty, quarterback, Gardner-Webb; Austin Jacques, linebacker, Johnson C. Smith; Branden Dozier, safety, Charlotte; Nick Napolitano, defensive end, Wingate.