The Wright Stuff

When Bryan Wright left the Mountaineer football program prior to the 2005 season, one could have easily assumed that he'd never be seen in the Puskar Center again. Nearly two years later, Wright has returned to Morgantown, this time as a member of the staff.

Wright was a fan favorite during his two seasons of varsity action for the Blue and Gold. Though he often found himself on the far end of the depth chart of a very crowded Mountaineer backfield, he showed flashes of brilliance in his limited action. But with as many as four players penciled in ahead of him prior to the 2005 season, Wright knew that if he wanted consistent playing time, he would likely have to find it at another institution.

"I left on decent terms," he recalled in an interview last week. "I thought I could have played a little bit more (at WVU), obviously, but I wasn't bitter towards anybody or anything like that. Coach Rod helped me try to find another school."

That new school turned out to be Shepherd College, located in the state's eastern panhandle. The Hampshire County native was productive in his two seasons with the Rams, and also was able to spend more time with his family from Hampshire County.

"I loved it there," he said of his time in Shepherdstown. "I got to play a little bit more, and I was closer to my mom and dad. It was nice to be playing instead of sitting and watching. We were undefeated both years I was there. Sure, it was a step down from Division I, but it was still fun. It was a blast."

With his graduation from college on the horizon, "The Romney Rocket" began to think about his future. As a kid, he dreamed of playing in the NFL. With his playing career in the rear view mirror, though, he realized that the NFL was probably not going to happen. He wanted to stay around the game, specifically in the area of strength and conditioning training. So he picked up the phone and called Mike Barwis, his former strength coach at WVU.

"When I did leave, I asked Mike if I could come back someday," he said. "I knew that strength and conditioning was where I was going when I left the playing field. I love to be in the weight room, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask him if I could come back as a GA, or an intern."

Barwis brought Wright on board with no hesitation. This fall, he'll be a full-fledged graduate assistant for the strength staff. Until then, he's helping out in any way he can as a volunteer. Over the past several weeks, Wright has been back in Morgantown preparing for his new role. He's even picked up a job as strength and conditioning coach for a local high school football team, which will give him hands on experience as he continues to learn from Barwis, his mentor.

"Without him, I wouldn't know what I know and I wouldn't be what I am," he says. "When I was here as a player, he showed me what hard work was and taught me how to overcome obstacles. He's a great coach. When he talks, you listen and you learn a lot. He makes you believe that doing this will make you better off down the road, and it will."

Ironically, many of the players that Wright will be working with are former teammates. While that may seem like a conflict of interest, the jovial Wright says there will be a fine line between work and friendship.

"They'll know when I'm serious and know when I'm joking around," he says. "They know that I have a job to do and so do they. I'm always smiling, but when I'm not showing my teeth they'll know it's time to get to work.

There's no doubt that his experience as a player in Barwis's strength program will pay dividends for him as a coach in the same area.

"As a player you always wonder why you're running so much, or why you have to do so many laps and stuff like that," he said. "In the end, though, you find out how much of a difference that makes. If we don't work them hard, then we're letting them down. It's our job to make them better."

The diminutive Wright believes that if it wasn't for his work in the weight room, he would have never had a chance to play at the highest level of college football.

"Throughout my childhood and high school, I was not one of the biggest players on the field," he admitted. "I knew that if I wanted a chance to play Division I football that I would have to work a little bit extra and a little bit harder in the weight room. Being in the weight room all the time and putting all that effort in made me realize that maybe someday I could be a strength coach and help guys to get stronger and faster like I did."

Maybe this isn't the way he imagined things would play out when he came to WVU in the fall of 2002. As he begins his second stint in Morgantown -- this time around as a coach -- he can't help but think that this is how it was all set up to happen.

"My dream was to go to the NFL, but the chances of that happening are very slim for anybody," he says without a hint of bitterness in his voice. "I feel like this is the job I was supposed to do."

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