Baltimore Mariners defensive end Fearon Wright spends his… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
On Mondays, Fearon Wright serves food and drink to homeless women at a Baltimore shelter. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, he puts on football pads and a helmet at a Mariners indoor football practice.
Now, as the undefeated team makes a run for the American Indoor Football Association championship, Wright manages to find time for the women and children of Sarah's Hope in Sandtown-Winchester because of one woman -- his mom.
"I'm always conscious of my mom and how hard she works for us," said Wright, who played seven games with the Minnesota Vikings in 2001 before he was sidelined with a shoulder injury. "She's the strongest woman I know. Knowing she was strong enough to fight for us made us want to do better and work harder. She always told me, 'Lead by example, do the right thing.' That's what I am trying to do."
Sarah's Hope, a program founded by the faith-based St. Vincent de Paul organization, provides 24-hour emergency shelter, case management and other support services for homeless women and children in the Sandtown-Winchester area of Baltimore. Wright spends his Monday nights serving dinner and visiting with the women and children at the shelter.
"I go by there and serve dinner and help out," Wright said. "I collect donations on their behalf and help with food and clothing drives. I just try to be around as much as possible to say, 'Hey, someone cares.'"
The Mariners defensive end, 31, was born in Jamaica and came to the U.S. when he was 13. He lived in Jersey City, N.J., while attending high school. Wright said his mother, Paula, was responsible for making sure he and his brothers and sisters received their green cards and were able to stay and succeed in the U.S.
"She's the best mom in the world," Wright said. "She brought us to this country. I come from a poor background and was able to live my dream, so I have to give back and tell someone else, 'You can do this, too.'"
Wright's commitment was born out of a lesson he learned from his mother during his youth, and it continues to serve him to this day.
One day in high school, he came home and told her he had quit the football team.
"'I never raised a quitter,' I told him," Paula Wright said. "So, I said, 'When you come back in this house, make sure you're on the football team!' The next day, he came back and said, 'Mommy, I'm on the football team.'"
Conor Wall, resource coordinator for Sarah's Hope, said that while many who help out at an organization like Sarah's Hope are timid and quiet, Wright is not.
"He's been great in the kitchen," Wall said. "He's friendly and open; he talks to all the kids. He's very helpful."
Wall also said that if Wright notices something the kitchen needs, such as new knives, he goes out and gets it.
"He gives to other people. He's so passionate about it," Paula Wright said. "He loves to see them become better people. I am very happy for the decisions he makes. Not a lot of young people are doing that today. Helping the less fortunate is great, and that's something he can take with him."
Wright doesn't spend Monday nights simply serving food and talking to those at Sarah's Hope. He also tries to get them out of the shelter and to fun events. Last month, he got them 40 tickets to the Mariners' game against the Erie Storm.
In addition to a Mariners victory, Wright's guests of honor watched the team clinch a first-round playoff bye heading into the AIFA Eastern Conference championship Saturday. The Mariners will face the Harrisburg Stampede at 7p.m. at 1st Mariner Arena.
"I wanted to bring them into my world," Wright said. "I wanted to motivate kids and show that it doesn't matter where you are now, but where you're going to be."
Turning his life around is something Wright has experienced firsthand. After coming from Jamaica and beginning a new life, he had to start over once more just as things were looking up.
After attending Rhode Island on a football scholarship, Wright signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent. He played with Minnesota for part of 2001 before a shoulder injury derailed his season and ended his NFL career.
"It was devastating," Wright said. "I worked so hard to become the player that I am. I walked out on that field loving everything I was doing, then I was told my career was over before I even began."
Instead of accepting the finality of that statement, Wright returned to football in 2008, playing for the AIFA's Carolina Speed. He joined the Mariners the next year.
"I gave up a desk job to play arena football," he said. "It makes me happy to chase what I want to do. I get to play sports and entertain people. I like to put smiles on people's faces."
Coach Chris Simpson said Wright leads the team by example.
"He has tremendous character and is a solid representative of the Mariners organization," Simpson said.
Through his work with Sarah's Hope, Wright continues to show that, with a positive attitude, a person can bounce back from seemingly irreparable setbacks.
"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "I need to take a negative situation and make it a brighter one for someone else. Living a good life is being happy with your actions and being able to help someone else. What you gain from that empowers you."
Fearon Wright at a glance
Born: Sept. 30, 1978
College: Rhode Island in 1999-2000
2010 Mariners stats
Tackles: 17.5 (8 solo, 17.5 assists)
Tackles for loss-yards: 8.5-31
Pass defensed: 1
Fumbles forced: 3
Fumbles recovered-yards: 1-12