Wright races downfield
*Today we continue a look back at the Jets' numerical roster and each respective player's individual 2006 season. This regular feature is scheduled to run throughout each week in the offseason.
*Rookie wide receiver Wallace Wright's hard work, flexibility, and response to adversity molded him into a prototypical New York Jets player.
After signing with the Jets last May as an undrafted free agent, Wright earned a spot on the practice squad to start the season. In week six, Wright was recognized for his hard work when he was awarded Practice Player of the Week by head coach Eric Mangini for his preparation before a 20-17 New York win over Miami on October 15.
"When we originally brought him in for a tryout, he had all the characteristics we looked for in our draft picks and undrafted free agents," Mangini said of Wright. "He carried those characteristics into the rookie tryouts. There wasn't going to be any inconsistency in the approach."
Veteran wide receiver Tim Dwight was placed on injured reserve on December 2, and the front office decided to fill the roster vacancy in-house. After 11 weeks as a member of the practice squad, Wright was an official member of the New York Jets active roster.
"It is important if you work hard, do a good job at practice, and then you're going to get that opportunity," Mangini said following the Wright promotion. "With Wallace, that was the case.
"I have always really liked the idea of giving people opportunities that may have been overlooked," Mangini added. "Wallace was one of those guys that was a tryout guy, and he worked like crazy and got a contract. He went into training camp and was noticed there. Each day as you turned the film on, there were one or two plays where he became recognizable. He didn't allow us not to see him."
Wright continued to make progress and display versatility over the course of the season. An ideal Mangini player can contribute in a number of different areas.
"He has worked quite a bit with the defensive backs, so that adds some position flexibility for him," said the first-year head coach. "If we need him to, he can go in. He knows most of the calls and he has actually worked with the first defense. He has worked on the scout team, so that does give you a little bit more flexibility there."
Wright's professional career has in some ways mirrored his days as a collegian. After he impressed the North Carolina coaching staff at a walk-on tryout as a freshman, he made an instant impact for the Heels on special teams, averaging 21.5 yards on his 29 kickoffs. Two seasons later, Wright earned a scholarship and contributed more on offense, hauling in 10 receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
Wright then capped off his Tar Heel career by serving as the primary kickoff return man as a senior. Perhaps his most memorable Carolina moment came when he returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown in a win over Boston College. The 6'0", 191-pounder also registered career-highs of 12 catches and 176 receiving yards.
When Wright was called up to the active roster before the team traveled to Lambeau Field, he wasn't seen as just a fresh body to have around for precautionary reasons heading down the home stretch. The rookie contributed to the Jets' 26-13 win at Minnesota on December 17, racking up three special teams tackles.
"It is a dream come true," said Wright of finding his place on an NFL roster. "Words can't describe how happy I am to be here. Everything happens the way it's supposed to happen, and I'm just thankful for this opportunity I've had that the New York Jets and Eric Mangini have given me to be on this team. I'm glad that Coach Mangini is the type of guy that values hard work because that is what I'm about - working hard and doing what I'm supposed to do."