Wright runs reverse to move forward

Football: Eastern Tech's Dietrich Wright has overcome his growing pains to become a team leader and role model.

High Schools

October 03, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

As a fourth-grader, Dietrich Wright once was picked up for truancy by police. As an Eastern Tech senior, Wright is considered a role model by the son of a policeman.

Youngsters such as Nick McElfish of the Middle River Renegades look up to the 6-foot, 200-pound running back, who coaches them on Tuesdays and Thursdays when he's not scoring touchdowns for the fourth-ranked Mavericks.

"He teaches me how to hold the ball so I don't fumble," said McElfish, 10, whose policeman father Shawn is an assistant coach to Eastern Tech's Marc Mesaros. "He's nice, listens, doesn't act like a big shot. I like his attitude."

McElfish will be watching tonight as his mentor leads Eastern Tech (4-0, 1-0) against 10th-ranked, Baltimore County 3A-2A league rival Hereford (3-1, 1-0) at CCBC Essex.

Wright, who has received interest from Fordham, Delaware State and Maryland, used his 4.47-second 40-yard dash speed to rush for 1,047 yards and 26 touchdowns and catch three receiving scores last year.

Tonight, he hopes to add to his 10 rushing touchdowns on 788 yards, and by doing so, "continue to show my coaches what I've become."

Wright, whose first name means "ruler of people" in German, remembers his biological father only as "a man with blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a black leather jacket when I was 5 or 6."

"My mother played both roles; she's the strongest woman in the world," Wright said of Theodora Campbell. "I'd give my right arm to my mom or my coaches."

Together, they guided a strong-willed boy with a chip on his shoulder.

"Dietrich had the talent, ability, the grades - but he also had a temper," said his former Renegades coach Dalys Talley. "If he felt he got tackled wrong, he threw the football at the kid."

Wright said he "knew right from wrong but did wrong anyway. I challenged authority, looked for trouble, hung with the wrong crowd, disrespected teachers. I always got suspended."

Talley and Middle River coaches John Toft, Myron Sanders and Mike Spies required Wright to complete homework assignments prior to practices and games.

"A turning point," Talley said, came when Wright was 10 during a practice prior to a league title game.

"I had the players running drills and Dietrich took off his equipment and said, `I'm not running anymore,' " Talley said. "Before he could play in the championship, I made him write a paper about why he was wrong. He had to read it aloud to the team and apologize. It was devastating to his ego, but he did it."

When he was a freshman, Wright reported to Eastern Tech as "a talented, physical specimen" under then-second-year coach Bruce Strunk, said Mesaros, who was Strunk's four-year assistant until replacing him this season.

"Bruce was another positive role model for Dietrich," said Mesaros. "Under Bruce, Dietrich became a leader."

As a sophomore before Eastern Tech's year-opening overtime win against Randallstown, Strunk "challenged me to be a man," Wright said.

"He looked me straight in the eyes and said, `I'm talking about in life, not just football,' " Wright said. "I try to do that everywhere I go."

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