Darrell Wright Is Ready

When Oregon meets Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon at Autzen Stadium the contest will mark the first meeting between the two schools on a football field. MSU competes in the tough Western Division of the Southeastern Conference, a long ways away from Oregon and the Pac-10 Conference. Accordingly, the players from both institutions have never met each other except in one case, Oregon defensive end Darrell Wright, 6-4,258, who played one year at Copiah-Lincoln College in Mississippi.

Listed on Mississippi State's roster are two players who also played at Copiah-Lincoln. Junior cornerback Odell Bradley, 5-10, 180 and junior defensive end Kamau Jackson, 6-1, 277 both are alumni of Copiah-Lincoln. Wright spent one year at the Mississippi community college before transferring to Reedley College in California. The move to the California school was a good one for Wright as JC Grid-Wire selected him for first-team All-American status. Last year at Oregon, Wright came into his own and became an integral part of the Oregon defense as the Ducks premiere pass rusher. This year Wright has his sights set on some higher goals.

Wright sees himself as a team leader, and the kind of player that leads by example though he hopes to become more vocal if and when the need arises. Wright would like to have 13 sacks this season or one per game, but individual honors are less on his mind than the goals of the team. If you ask Wright about the strength of the team and what is important, he has a quick answer.

"We have great unity," said Wright. "We have great teammates."

The Ducks will count on the team family as the cohesive element that will make the difference between success and failure for the season. Wright will join an experienced defensive line that is bolstered by a memorable performance in the Fiesta Bowl last January. Headed into the contest on January 1, 2002 many doubted if the Duck's defensive front could stop a Colorado running attack that had demolished such national powers as Nebraska and Texas. Yet when the game was over and finished, the Ducks had allowed Colorado's potent attack to only 46 yards rushing. How much of a boost did the win over the Buffaloes give the Ducks heading into this season? Wright thinks it was a major confidence booster.

"They (Colorado's offensive line) outweighed us across the board," said Wright. "But, they couldn't out power us and that gave us a lot of confidence."

Oregon's size on the defensive line may be much larger this season with the addition of junior defensive tackle Junior Siavii, 6-4, 320 and freshman defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, 6-4, 333. Ngata will not be available for the opening game due to back spasms, but is expected to be available to play against Fresno State on September 7th.

Wright thinks that he, along with the returning veterans, have what it takes to get the job done in Division I football. He believes strongly enough in the unity of his team and his teammates to have some lofty expectations for the team this year.

"We have a shot to win the Pac-10 again and get to Fiesta Bowl and National Championship," said Wright.

The first step toward those goals is a win on Saturday against a team that Wright is sure will be ready to play. Despite a 3-8 record last season, the Ducks know the Bulldogs of Mississippi State want to redeem themselves from last year and resume their winning ways of just two years ago. MSU was 8-4 in 2000 and were 10-2 in 1999. Head Coach Jackie Sherrill is the all-time leader in coaching wins at MSU and has a record of 70-56 in his 12 years at Starkville. Darrell Wright is more than willing to help keep coach Sherrill's win-loss record stagnant and more than ready for the action to start.

"It takes that first play to get it (the jitters) out of your system," said Wright.

Wright is on track to graduate next spring with a degree in sociology and he does plans to purse the NFL. Wright knows he has the skills and potential to compete at the next level and is only looking for a chance to show what he can do. A successful season at Oregon this year will help him along his way to pursue a possible professional future. And, his first step in that direction will be against a school that was about four hours away from his old community college in Mississippi.

Kickoff for the Saturday's game is scheduled for 3 p.m. The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox Sports and radio on the Oregon Sports Network, with Jerry Allen.

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