JT Wright looks ahead to UW visit

Calif. PK/WR expects to solidify verbal commitment to Badgers after late June unofficial trip

JT Wright has given a verbal commitment to the University of Wisconsin. But there is one caveat: the class of 2006 place kicker and wide receiver prospect at Agoura (Calif.) High School wants to firm up that decision during a June 24 unofficial visit to Madison.

"I called (Wisconsin's coaches) and said that I'm very interested in everything," Wright said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. "I'd been calling the coaches a lot before that. And I just said that I'm very interested in everything and that I would like to verbally commit right now and I'll make it stronger as we go up to the visit and everything like that."

UW is currently Wright's only scholarship offer, though UNLV told him that if he decides that the Badgers are not the team for him, the Rebels would quickly offer.

At Wisconsin, Wright expects to have the opportunity to compete for playing time as a wide receiver and as a kicker.

"I talked to the coaches at Wisconsin and they said that when I [arrive] three senior receivers will be leaving," he said. "And then their kicking staff, they didn't do that good last year and then they will get older, so I might have the chance to do both."

Of UW's four verbal commitments for the class of 2006, three could play wide receiver: Wright, Cleveland Glenville's Daven Jones and Cross River (N.Y.) John Jay's Dan Sheeran. The Badgers will have three place kickers on the roster this fall: sophomore Taylor Mehlhaff and walk-ons redshirt freshman Adam Schober and freshman Matt Fischer.

"Well, I've thought that as a kicker I would play D-I," Wright said. "And then as a receiver I just progressed and got a lot better… and stronger and quicker. I guess they liked how I played."

The Badgers have had their eye on Wright for quite some time, especially considering he has just one year of varsity football under his belt. UW began recruiting the 6-foot, 188-pound prospect when he was a sophomore playing for Agoura's junior varsity. Wright only kicked three field goals that year ("I only had three field goals that year but we were just so dominant," he said.) but the Badgers saw enough of his talents at a Chris Sailer kicking camp to have considerable interest in him.

UW was actually recruiting and scouting Mehlhaff at the Sailer camp when they noticed Wright. And this past January, when Wright excelled at a Sailer kicking competition—earning the right to take part in Sailer's July 25-28 Top 12 Elite Camp—Mehlhaff was one of the instructors.

Wright said he has developed a good relationship with UW's resident scholarship kicker.

"I know him," Wright said of Mehlhaff. "I met him last year and then I talked to him a lot at the last Chris Sailer camp.

"He said, ‘When you come out (to Madison), I'll take you around everywhere.' So he's a really nice guy."

That visit will likely determine whether or not Wright's verbal wanes or becomes cemented.

"I'm just going to check out the school and meet the coaches and meet the players," he said. "That's when I will take a look at the school and make my decision more clear."

At the present Wright is very excited about UW.

"Well, I think I can get some playing time as the No. 1," he said. "The academics are really good there… I'm from Philly, so I love the cold…

"And then other sports there are really good, like their basketball team and other stuff. Those should be fun to watch."

Wright said he lived in Philadelphia for the first eight years of his life, then spent five years in Naples, Fla. He has lived in California for the past five years. But his affinity for snow has not waned, he said.

"I've always just wanted to play in the snow (though) I'll probably just end up playing in the rain," he said.

Wright's first opportunity to kick a field goal came at an improbable moment.

"Eighth grade, our coach didn't believe in field goals," Wright said. "We always went for two and everything like that.

"It was a semifinal playoff game where we were down by two and it would have been a 42-yard field goal. He says, ‘Alright let's just try it. I know you have a pretty good leg.' So I go in there and make it to win the game. And then some guy told me, ‘Hey, you've got to go to Chris Sailer.' So I started going to him since eighth grade."

He then kicked for Agoura's freshman team and, as a sophomore, for the JV. In his first year on varsity last fall, Wright was an all-county, all-league and all-division selection. He connected on 13 of 16 field goal attempts, including a long of 49 yards, and 43 of 44 extra point attempts last season. He also caught 66 passes for 1,076 yards and eight touchdowns.

Playing wide receiver and place kicking in college would be a rare double, but Wright feels that he can pull it off. Still, he sounded more than a little flattered as he recounted how the Badgers' letters last fall began to state that they were interested in him as a wide receiver, and not just as a kicker.

"They said they were recruiting me as a receiver and a kicker," Wright said. "I was like, ‘Oh, that's even better.'"

"I knew I would be able to do both somewhere," he said. "But I was just surprised it was this early."

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