Wright says degree, not NFL, should be first priority

February 20, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

MICHAEL STRAHAN, TEXAS SOUTHERN; EVERETTE MCIVER, ELIZABETH CITY STATE; DAMIEN MOSES, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE; LEROY THOMPSON, DELAWARE STATE LB: RODNEY EDWARDS, NORTH CAROLINA A&T; MARLO PERRY, JACKSON STATE; PERRY HALL, TENNESSEE STATE DB: WILLIAM CARROLL, FLORIDA A&M; ALONZA BARNETT, NORTH CAROLINA A&T; JOSEPH BEST, FORT VALLEY STATE; SEAN WALLACE, SOUTHERN P: COLIN GODFREY, TENNESSEE STATE ALL-TIME TEAM — If there is a message Rayfield Wright would give the 1992 Black College All-Americans, it is this:

Stay in school. Get your degree. Then worry about the NFL.

"It doesn't make any difference whether you go to a small school, a black school or a big school," Wright said last night at the Inner Harbor Marriott, where a two-night celebration of black college football began.

"If you don't apply yourself, if you don't go to get an education, you're going for the wrong reason."

Wright is living proof it's the right thing to do.

He was a talented high school basketball player in Griffin, Ga., 40 miles south of Atlanta. He went to Fort Valley (Ga.) State College to pursue his passion on the hardwood. He was good enough to average double figures in points and rebounds, good enough to attract an offer from the NBA's Cincinnati Royals his junior year. But he was smart enough not to take it and run.

Wright finished college and got his degree in education. Along the way, he also played football -- well enough to attract the attention of the up-and-coming Dallas Cowboys. He made the Cowboys in 1967 and went on to enjoy a great NFL career as an All-Pro offensive tackle.

The postscript to his story: Two years ago, he tapped that education degree and turned it into a program to help delinquent kids in Phoenix. The non-profit organization is called "Kids for Tomorrow." Wright says within the year he will have the program in Baltimore, with ex-Detroit Lion Dan White as its director. Baltimore is one of four cities Wright is moving into.

"We hire retired professional athletes," said Wright, who said he has been going in to schools to help kids for the past 25 years. "We critique their skills, then send them into the schools to deal with kids who are into gang violence, drugs and alcohol.

"We want to work with the students as a role model and mentor and friend, which is the most important thing to a lot of kids who want to deal in drugs and alcohol. We want them to understand the purpose is to get them off drugs and keep them from dropping out of school."

Fate pulled Wright, the basketball player, into football at Fort Valley. He had a cousin who played football. One thing led to another, and Wright soon was a two-sport athlete on an athletic scholarship, not just a basketball scholarship.

He alternated between free safety and end on defense. He played tight end and tackle on offense. He also punted.

So it should come as no surprise, then, that Wright was good enough to be named to the Sheridan Broadcast Network's All-Time Black College Football Team, honored last night at the Marriott.

"It's a tremendous honor," Wright said. "I'm very excited about this opportunity to see a lot of guys. It's like a family reunion. It's a blessing to me. It lets these young athletes know there is worth in what you do, that there is recognition in what you do."

As good as Wright was at Fort Valley State, he was even better during a distinguished 13-year career with the Cowboys. He was a four-time All-Pro pick and a six-time Pro Bowl selection. He also played in five Super Bowls.

He was an integral part of the original America's Team in Dallas. What does he think about Jimmy Johnson's updated, 1993 version of America's Team?

"They did a fantastic job," Wright said of the reigning Super Bowl

champions. "I was happy to see it."

1992 All-American team

Sheridan Broadcast Network's 1992 Black College All-American Team, to be honored tonight at 6:30 at the Marriott Inner Harbor:

Honors Offensive Player of the Year: QB Steve McNair, Alcorn State

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Michael Strahan, Texas Southern

6* Coach of the Year: Joe Taylor, Hampton

%

Offensive team

QB: Steve McNair, Alcorn State

RB: Eric Gant, Grambling State; Rod Clodfelter, Livingstone

WR: Terry Mickens, Florida A&M; Doug Grant, Savannah State

TE: Isiah Bliss, Jackson State

OL: Herman Arvie, Grambling State; Lester Holmes, Jackson State; Kwame Kilpatrick, Florida A&M; Robert Carpenter, Howard; Orlando Brown, South Carolina State

0$ K: Gilad Landau, Grambling State

Defensive team

Sheridan Broadcasting Network's All-Time Black College Football Team:

Offense

QB: Doug Williams, Grambling

RB: Walter Payton, Jackson State; Tank Younger, Grambling

WR: Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State; John Stallworth, Alabama A&M; Charlie Joiner, Grambling

OL: Art Shell, Maryland State; Rayfield Wright, Fort Valley State; Jackie Slater, Jackson State; Larry Little, Bethune-Cookman; Ernie Barnes, North Carolina Central

Defense

Willie Davis, Grambling; Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Tennessee State; Deacon Jones, South Carolina State; L. C. Greenwood, Arkansas A&M

LB: Robert Brazile, Jackson State; Harry Carson, South Carolina State; Willie Lanier, Morgan State

DB: Mel Blount, Southern; Lem Barney, Jackson State; Donnie Shell, South Carolina State; Everson Walls, Grambling

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