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Running out of the locker room ready to battle yet another opponent. Breathing in fresh mountain air. Making a big play at a critical moment. Landing among fresh powdery snow.
For senior defensive back Kyle Wright, nothing else compares to the rush he gets from football and snowboarding.
When he’s playing football, Wright is leader of the defense.
“Football is hard work and takes dedication,” says the senior monsterback from Springfield, Ore.
When it comes time for snowboarding, it’s Wright’s chance to get away from everything and just focus on the smoothest way to reach the bottom the ski slope. During the last seven winters, Wright has spent as many as 100 days a year surrounded by snow.
“I’m a snowboard addict,” he confesses. “I was pretty close to moving to Bend (Oregon). I wanted to see how far I could go with it.”
After he completed high school, Wright studied two possible paths laid out before him. He had the option to see how far snowboarding could take him, or pursue his other passion, football, in college.
For a variety of reasons, Wright opted to take the path that led to football. “I wanted to make an impact with a team early in my career,” he says. “I heard how good Linfield was and I wanted to play with a lot of guys who have the same drive and motivation that I have. I really liked the guys I met at Linfield, especially coaches Brandon Hazenberg and Neil Fendall. They had a huge impact on me early on in my first visit.”
Despite having made football his top pursuit, Wright hasn’t given up his other recreational hobby, snowboarding. In fact, he still intends to make a career of it.
“I’m a business management major. I would like to get into product management in the sports world,” he says, visualizing his life beyond Linfield. “I want to start in smaller companies with product testing. My dream job is doing product line management for action line sports, like snowboarding.”
Wright has had no shortage of success at Linfield. He was a starter on all four special teams his first two seasons, and started a few times in the secondary during his sophomore year. He has continued to grow in a leadership role ever since.
“I feel like my defining moment was my first start on defense my sophomore year against Pacific Lutheran. I played pretty well and was reassured that football was really what I love to do, and that all the hard work had paid off. And I knew then that I had a really good career ahead of me. It was good to get my first start under my belt and to know I could perform at a really high level,” he says.
“I’ve grown since then. Being captain last year as a junior was a huge thing, and now I can have the impact on the team that I wanted, since I basically play the quarterback of the defense.”
He attributes his success to the help of his coaches.
“Coach Fendall and Hazenberg really helped me through freshman and sophomore year. I got a lot of positive feedback from Fendall and he really pushed me to be not just a good football player, but also a good man, and a good husband eventually. I learned a lot of life lessons from him. Coach Hazenberg, he’s a player’s coach. I can talk to him about anything. He’s pushed me to not be lackadaisical, to continue to try and get better every day.”
Head coach Joseph Smith acknowledges the work Wright has put in to ensure the Wildcats’ continued success.
“Kyle’s been the steady spark in our secondary for the last few years. There’s no question that Mr. Wright ‘brings it’ on game day. His fire and competitiveness spreads to those around him and he’s one of those players that’s a joy to watch play the game.”
Smith saw Wright play high school football and knew he would be a perfect fit at Linfield.
“We believed Kyle would be exactly what we desired in the middle of our defense. And he has more than lived up to those high expectations.”
As a whole, Wright is extremely devoted to his team, and his team is just as devoted to him.
Teammate Tyler Robitaille has nothing but positive feelings towards Wright.
“Kyle’s work ethic, attitude at practice and during games is always focused. He always wants to learn and improve. He really is our leader, making calls and knowing how to rotate in our complex defense. Off the field, he’s my best friend. Kyle is a man of high character on and off the field. He’s respected by all members of the team as well as the coaches.”
Wright believes the Linfield defense is a cut above other programs. “Shout out to the defensive line, best in the country,” he says. “They make my job really easy.”
Robitaille is equally as complimentary.
“He’s not only my teammate, but my brother, and I can’t say enough about him.”
Wright came to Linfield wanting to make an impact. Based on results, together with the respect he has earned, it’s obvious he has done just that, and more.
-- Kelsey McGarry '16