Because of family issues, Jacob Wright felt he was caught in a pinch and sensed the necessity of making a sacrifice last winter.
Then a junior at Signal Mountain, he packed his bags, said his goodbyes and left the school and his friends shortly after Christmas.
He enrolled at Ridgeland, another strong football school with pretty good academics, but a Signal buddy had a senior night basketball game and Wright wanted to go.
“I saw a lot of my [football] teammates and they said they wished I’d come back. The coaches I saw said they missed me, but none of them pressured me to come back,” he said. “But I had a feeling inside, a voice telling me, ‘Hey, you need to be where you’re comfortable.’ I didn’t think I was that important, but I realized then that people missed me.”
Baylor defensive lineman Will Thomas has made the most of the transition from linebacker to help the Red Raiders up front.
When Wright told Bill Price he was leaving, the Signal coach’s initial reaction was to make sure Wright had not had a problem with a teacher or a coach. Then Wright told him there were family issues he had to address.
“Ridgeland would have gotten a really good kid and a really good football player, and we would have lost one,” Price said. “But, oh yeah, we’re glad to see him come back.”
Wright, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive tackle, said he didn’t realize Price could grin, which is exactly what the coach did when Wright told him he was returning to Signal Mountain.
“I’d never seen smile so big in my life,” he said.
So Wright settled back into a Signal student’s life and moved back into his defensive tackle spot.
“There’s no doubt he’ll make us better,” Price said. “He’ll get a bunch of [college] looks. He’s a very athletic kid, quick for his size.”
Wright has been getting letters from LSU and had an invitation to attend a number of games last season. He also went to the UT-Alabama game last year as a guest of the Volunteers and has gotten correspondence from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Georgia and UT-Chattanooga.
He is, though, focused more on the upcoming season.
“You know how it is in two-a-days. It’s miserably hot and you get tired of each other and tired of hitting each other,” he said. “When the season starts we come together as a family. That’s how it has always been. We’re there for each other. It’s hard to explain beyond saying that once an Eagle you’re always an Eagle.”
He and fellow seniors recall the horrible feeling that accompanied an overtime loss in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.
“The freshmen come in and sometimes act a little childish, but this senior bunch doesn’t have time to play around,” he said. “I remember that comeback in the playoffs last year to force overtime and then losing by a point. I think the seniors learned from that, and that memory makes us want to get better and work harder to keep that from happening again.”
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...