Eric Wright has heard the questions about his character and he's worked hard to put those concerns behind him. Considered one of the top talents at cornerback coming out of college, Wright had to overcome the negativity about his past as he prepared for the Draft. Even with all of the questions, there's no doubt the UNLV product is on a lot of teams' draft boards. Wright just hopes that people look at what he's done lately and not hold his past against him.
That will be hard to do according to the "get tough" policy the NFL has placed on character issues. Wright's past, which includes accusations of sexual assault and concerns over drugs found in his apartment while he was a member of the USC Trojans, are no easy things to get past. Although charges were dropped, he was forced to deal with the fallout. Wright left USC and transferred to UNLV, where he's been a model citizen ever since.
When asked about having to deal with those concerns and if they affected his draft prospects, Wright was forthcoming, preferring to address the issue head on.
"This business is big on records and impressions and past issues. In looking at my history, I feel I have a track record of being a great person, a great student, and a great leader," Wright said.
He felt that teams have had a number of opportunities to look into his background and have come up with the same reaction that he's not a bad person and that incident was in the past.
"People ask why my stock is sort of skyrocketing. I feel like it's because everybody (NFL teams) had questions about my character. They've gone back to my high school, to USC, to UNLV and the people around me as they do their homework on my character, they come to find out I'm an excellent person."
Wright's agent Jamal Tooson also addressed the issue head on.
"Eric transferred to UNLV in hopes of a fresh start, prior to any discipline being taking at USC," said Tooson via email. "At UNLV he has been incident free and has never failed a drug test in his life. Eric has been a honor roll student for the majority of his life and was a team leader at UNLV."
Addressing the past has certainly helped Wright as the Draft approaches. Once considered a possible first round pick, Wright's stock dropped precipitously as more concerns were raised over fallout from the Adam "Pacman" Jones and Chris Henry decisions handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Jones and Henry were severely punished for off-field incidents recently, and the consensus of opinion my many league insiders is that guys with character concerns like Wright, Miami safety Brandon Merriweather and others, might be a liability for clubs down the road.
A league insider told PatriotsInsider.com that some teams flag guys who have checkered pasts. Once flagged, it means that the team will not draft him even if he's on the board late and represents tremendous value. Word is Wright was one of those guys early on, but that teams have been changing their tune recently as they find out more about him.
Character issues aside, Wright said that the adjustment from a big program like USC to a struggling program in UNLV has been tough, but it's helped him grow.
"It was a big jump from going 13 and 0 and an interception in the national championship game and looking forward to another national championship run to a team that was last in its conference for the past few years," Wright said. "So mentally it was fairly draining."
Wright felt that the move was positive for him. Not only because he was able to share his USC success with his teammates at UNLV, but that he learned new things.
"It's been great being able to play at two separate colleges and two separate defensive schemes, I was able to learn a lot."
Wright prepared for the Draft at Athletes First, a sports training facility specializing in getting players ready for the testing at the NFL Combine. He felt that the training helped him, but he was still disappointed in his Combine results.
"I definitely felt like I should have run a faster 40, because I trained hard." Wright reflected. "I didn't reach my own personal goals with that. The interviews part I feel I nailed talking to the teams."
Wright felt like he ran fast at an unofficial 4.36 at the Combine (Officially 4.42), but he felt he could have done better. He claimed that he could run a 4.32, which is blazing fast for a defensive back and something he's done in the past. He ran a 4.31 at USC as a freshman after coming back from a hamstring injury.
When talking about his time at USC Wright also mentioned that playing against Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith helped him in his transition to UNLV. Dealing with that combination was tough. He compared their skills to that of another defender he labeled as one of the toughest guys he ever had to deal with in Mark Clayton when he was at Oklahoma.
"That guy is extremely explosive and a playmaker, and very competitive," Wright said of Clayton. "Luckily in the game we didn't get any shots to really go at it though."
Wright has been drawing interest from a lot of teams. He felt like he talked to everyone at the Combine and a lot since.
Tooson say that Wright has drawn interest from a number of teams,. He had a great meeting with the Browns staff. Tampa Bay, New York Giants, and Kansas City have also met with him. According to Tooson Wright had a great meeting with Eagles head coach Andy Reid.
The Buccaneers defensive backs coach ran the drills at Wright's pro day. On hand were scouts from a number of teams, including the Patriots' Adam Peters. It was the second time he saw New England, as the Patriots staffer was in charge of Wright's groups at the combine.
The Buccaneers followed up with Wright, bringing him in for a visit, something Wight says he enjoyed.
"I was able to talk to Bruce Allen and Jon Gruden and some of the other people there. I really enjoyed my time there," said Wight. The best part was talking to Tampa Bay's head coach. "He was kind of laid back. I was able to sit in there and talk with him for about 15 minutes, nothing over the top. I really enjoyed that."
The Eagles, Phil Savage Cleveland's GM, Green Bay, Washington attended a personal workout of Wright's as one of he last workouts for teams.
Wright had visits with Green bay, New Orleans, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York Giants and Kansas City. Herm Edwards, the Chiefs' head coach, spent time with Wright specifically. Edwards spent time with Wright at UNLV, then again having him in for a visit.
Judging the amount of teams taking a closer look at the talented defender, there's little doubt Wright has successfully addressed his past and has a good day to look forward to come Draft weekend.
Members can listed to the entire Wright interview by clicking on his profile and scrolling down to the media section.