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Rookies Cash in on Equal Opportunity


Wright has made the most of his opportunities

When the Jets invited Wallace Wright for a tryout shortly after the NFL Draft in late April, the former North Carolina wide receiver found himself in a familiar spot. To kick off his collegiate career, the Fayetteville, North Carolina native was a walk-on who rose from the pack and made the team due to hard work and determination.

With a work ethic and determination that matched the Jets' core values, that simple invite was all Wright would need.

"I've always really liked the idea of giving people opportunities that may have been overlooked," said Jets head coach Eric Mangini. "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 wasn't even a starter at Carolina. As a kickoff returner and backup receiver, he started just one game in his career and that came on Senior Day. Both his average stature (6'0", 191-pounds) and stats (23 receptions for 321 yards and four touchdowns in four seasons) caused Wright to go mostly unnoticed by scouting departments. When the scouts even bothered to look at Wright, he was still suffering some side effects from a fractured leg and ran a sub par 4.5 in the 40. But Mangini and the Jets' player personnel department took note of the 22-year old Wright's intangibles.

"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. "He carried those characteristics into the rookie tryouts. There wasn't going to be any inconsistency in the approach."

The first-year head coach has continually given fair shots to players, especially in recent weeks. Mangini has not only promoted two undrafted free agents to the active roster in December, he has done it the midst of the most important time of the season and the club's push for the postseason.

While Wright collected his first official NFL tackle in punt coverage against the Bills, safety Jamie Thompson also appeared on the field in what was his first game on the Jets' roster. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy was one of the first players on the field as he lined up on the opening kickoff cover team. Thompson is another example of how hard work can open doors, and he listened to some important words Mangini offered the young undrafted players at their first meeting prior to the rookie camp in May.

"You have gotten over one big hurdle," Mangini announced. "You're all in the room. You're all on the same footing. What you do from this moment on is going to determine whether you stay in the room. You control those things based on your performance and doing the things that we ask you to do."

Later on as Wright and Thompson found more success, the message became not only more direct, but more intense.

"Okay, you've made the roster," Mangini told them. "But this is an ongoing, day-to-day process where you have to continually show that you can contribute to the team and that you can play a role."

It was Thompson and Wright, among others, who took these words and ran with them. Wright excelled in practice as not just a show team receiver but as a cornerback as well. Because of such efforts like these, we now see numbers 15 and 38 on Sundays playing against the world's best.

"It's a perfect spot for me," Wright said of his role with the Jets. "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."

Friday Injury Report Jets Questionable: FB B.J. Askew (foot), CB David Barrett (hip), LB Matt Chatham (foot), Eric Smith (foot) LB & Bryan Thomas (shoulder)
Probable: *RB Kevan Barlow (calf), *LB Brad Kassell (shin), *WR Justin McCareins (foot), *DL Rashad Moore (hand), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *DL Dewayne Robertson (shoulder), *TE Sean Ryan (thigh) *WR Brad Smith (shoulder) *S Jamie Thompson (ankle) & *DL Kimo von Oelhoffen (shoulder)

Vikings Questionable: QB Brooks Bollinger (shoulder)
Probable: CB Cedric Griffin (neck), LB Napoleon Harris (wrist), WR Marcus Robinson (ankle), RB Chester Taylor (ribs), & DT Pat Williams (knee)

*Denotes players who participated in practice

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