Anthony Gimino: Arizona's Scooby Wright only looking ahead

Published: Aug. 4, 2015 at 11:01 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:24 PM MST
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Anthony Gimino
Anthony Gimino

TUCSON, AZ - Arizona all-everything linebacker Scooby Wright reported to camp wearing a T-shirt that depicted a front-on view of a Wildcats helmet below the word "Misfits."

New year. Same ol' Two-Star Scoob.

Coach Rich Rodriguez often referred to his Pac-12 South-winning team last season as his "Island of Misfit Toys" as he mixed a collection of solid recruiting talent with key transfers, walk-ons and under appreciated two-star prospects such as Wright.

The mismatched pieces all came together beautifully for the Wildcats and for Wright, who became a unanimous All-American and multi-national award winner.

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy. The Chuck Bednarik Award. The Lombardi Award. The 163 tackles, 29 for loss. The 14 sacks.

All that, as Scooby repeatedly said Tuesday, is soooo last year.

"Nobody cares what you did last year," he said. "It's what you do from here. That's the way I look at it."

His glittering hardware from last year's awards circuit sits in his parents' home in northern California. Scooby recently was home for a couple of weeks before returning to Tucson.

"He's funny," his dad, Phillip Wright, said by phone Tuesday.

"He walked by every once in a while and put a trophy in a drawer. He'll see his rings out and put those in the case and put them back in the drawer. Or he'll see a plaque and cover it or turn it around. He's different.

"The individual stuff is awesome, but he just wants the team to keep winning and let everything else happen after that."

When UA coaches suggested in the spring that they would add Wright's image to the mural of All-Americans and major award winners on the wall that looms beyond the team's practice field ... well, he politely suggested what they could do with that idea.

"I told them if they did, I was going to burn it down," Wright said. "I told them they are going to have to wait until I leave."

Wright does want to look forward, but not that much forward to the day he's off to the NFL. It's all about now, all about this year. He certainly will be the focus of every offense's blocking scheme, and the Wildcats will have to counter with a variety of roles for their superstar. He can play in the middle, at outside linebacker or as a pass-rushing end.

"We're still trying to figure out what works best and what doesn't," Wright said. "We're going to figure that out in camp."

It almost goes without saying that Wright, a year older, stronger and smarter -- he's a noted weight room and film room fanatic -- will be a better player in 2015 than he was in 2014. Whether he can post those same stats, mixed with a season-defining moment -- the Scooby Strip of Marcus Mariota in the upset over Oregon -- is a more complicated prediction.

"I don't know," coach Rich Rodriguez said at Pac-12 Media Days in Burbank, Calif., last week.

"We'll try to do some special things because he's a better athlete than what people maybe have projected. But he's worked hard on his craft. That's the thing I love about Scooby. ... He still has the same chip on his shoulder as he did the day we recruited him."

Ah, yes. That chip on his shoulder.

He said he has paid attention to some of the preseason predictions for Arizona, which include being tabbed fourth in the Pac-12 South by the league media. The projection he paid attention to, he said, was an ESPN analysis that gave the Wildcats a scant 2 percent chance of winning the division.

"I thought that was pretty funny," he said.

Here is something else that is kind of funny: When you read national breakdowns of Wright's game, he gets lavished with praise for his production, but never for being an elite athlete. He has a fun nickname. He has a "great motor." He's an "overachiever."

All those narratives drown out his athleticism.

"In high school, people were saying I'm unathletic, and then I went to the SPARQ Combine and had the highest score in the country," Wright said of the physical testing at Nike events for football prospects. "I think it's just the persona I have."

As camp begins, Wright and the rest of the Wildcats will be motivated by the way last season ended, losing to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game and then Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.

"When he was home, he was like a race horse stuck in a stable," Phillip Wright said.

"He's like, 'Dad, I'm ready. I'm ready. I'm ready. I'm ready. This is the best I've ever felt.'"

Another Season of Scooby begins.

NOTES: Arizona's updated roster includes free safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, who was ineligible at Marana Mountain View last season after transferring from Tucson High. Flannigan-Fowles was considered a candidate to delay his enrollment until the semester break, but the Wildcats ended up with room on the roster. Antonio Parks, a three-star defensive back from Reserve, La., who signed in February, is not on the roster. ... Among the walk-ons listed on the roster is wide receiver Bryant O'Georgia, who caught 21 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown last season at NAU. He set a state high school record with a high jump of 7 feet 2 1/4 inches as a senior at Phoenix North Canyon in the spring of 2014; he is expected to compete in track and field at Arizona, too. ... Arizona will hold its first practice of fall camp on Wednesday afternoon.

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Anthony Gimino has covered University of Arizona athletics for more than two decades, including as the football beat writer for the Arizona Daily Star and the columnist for the Tucson Citizen.