By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A West Coast college football fan since first playing the game, Phil Wright will join the Pac-12 Conference as an Arizona Wildcats linebacker.
Heading into his senior season at Cardinal Newman High, the All-Empire player will receive a scholarship to play at Arizona in 2013.
“I always grew up watching the Pac-12 and thought it was pretty cool,” Wright said. “I kept working hard, and hard work pays off.”
Four schools showed interest in Wright, who made his decision after visiting the Tuscon campus this past weekend. Wright, who also met the coaching staff at Boise State,was contacted by San Diego State and Nevada as well.
“The atmosphere of the school is great,” Wright said of Arizona. “You know they’re up-and-coming in football.”
Arizona looks to put a winning team back on the field under new head coach Rich Rodriguez. A football analyst for CBS Sports the past year, Rodriguez most recently was head coach at Michigan from 2008 to 2010, and won four Big East Conference championships during his 2001-07 run at West Virginia.
Rodriguez and his entire staff met with Wright in Arizona, impressing the Cardinal Newman standout.
“Every school he’s been, at he’s won games,” Wright said of Rodriguez.
The opportunity to play linebacker in the Arizona defensive scheme excites Wright. Rodriguez will install his trademark spread-option attack, and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel will put in the 3-3-5 defense, with one among the linebacking trio typically blitzing.
“The coaches said the linebacker class they were recruiting is going to get to play,” Wright said.
For now, Wright is occupied with summer workouts. The Cardinal Newman team lifts weights three days a week. There is the Santa Rosa Junior College passing league. Wright also trains on his own three days a week.
“The Arizona coaches said ‘have a great senior year and enjoy it,’” Wright said.
All-Empire as a junior, Wright also was twice first-team linebacker in the North Bay League. Cardinal Newman won the North Coast Section Division 3 title his sophomore season and reached the semifinals last fall.
Playing at the major-college level will be a challenge. Wright appreciates that playing time isn’t guaranteed, particularly to first-year players.
“There’s always someone out there better,” he said. “That’s one thing I’ll never do is get complacent.”
You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.