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Dexter Wright’s back-up plan of putting to use the bachelor’s degree in social work he earned from North Carolina State University in December is now, well, a back-up plan.
The 2014 Hunt High graduate will take a by-pass that he hopes will become permanent after signing a free-agent contract with the Houston Texans of the NFL. Wright was among the hundreds of college football players hoping to hear their name called in the NFL draft last weekend but the former Wolfpack safety is delighted how it turned out.
“It’s great!” Wright said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon. “Obviously, everybody wants to get drafted. I think, going in, I wasn’t necessarily concerned about that because, talking with my agent, really getting picked up as a free agent is better than getting picked up in the late rounds because the (draftee) contracts are longer and you don’t get a say in where you go.
“In free agency, if you’re fortunate to have a team offer you a contract, you can kind of choose and decide where you want to go, what place best fits. So, once I got that call from my agent telling me that Houston had offered a contract, it was really surreal because I thought at the moment, my whole life is changing now. I was just excited about the opportunity to be put in the position to play again and play at the next level, which is what everybody’s dream is that truly loves football.”
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Wright will head to Houston next week for the second phase of the Texans’ offseason workouts that lead into the start of their organized team activities, or OTAs. There will be three weeks of OTAs before the mandatory mini-camp from June 11-13.
Wright hopes to leave enough of an impression to get invited to training camp in July.
“You can get cut at any time, but I was fortunate enough to get a contract and signed it and sent it back, but there’s still no guarantee that I’ll be on the team by the time training camp comes,” he cautioned.
Wright said that he heard from the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers through his agent but he wasn’t as good of a fit on the depth charts of both teams. Once the Texans offered him a contract, it was a no-brainer.
Wright, a three-sport standout at Hunt and The Wilson Times Athlete of the Year in 2014, started all 13 games for the Wolfpack as a redshirt senior last fall. He had 50 tackles with three pass break-ups and an interception. It was the first season since 2015 that he was completely healthy after missing seven games in 2016 and 2017.
“That’s another thing I’m really excited about,” he said. “Last year I was able to stay healthy throughout the year and even though I was rotating, I felt like I was able to put some good stuff out there. I know that once I’m able to get this next opportunity I can learn from the mistakes I made and the good things I did in college are going to be benefit me at the next level.”
Wright is the third member of the 2012 Hunt varsity team to have signed an NFL contract. Defensive end Lewis Neal, a 2013 Hunt grad, signed as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys and appeared in several games in the 2017 season after graduating from LSU. Wright’s former classmate and defensive backfield mate Malik Williams signed a free-agent deal with the Atlanta Falcons last summer, but was injured in the preseason just as it seemed he was going to land on the Falcons’ 53-man roster. Williams, a Louisville graduate who is now a running back after playing cornerback alongside Wright at Hunt, inked a free-agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers in February.
Wright relishes the memories of playing for the Warriors, who went to four straight North Carolina High School Athletic Association Eastern championship games, in his four seasons at Hunt.
“It’s crazy how far we’ve come along since my and Malik’s junior and senior year,” Wright said. “Football is something we cared about and we knew that we wanted to ultimately get to the NFL and both of us had the opportunity to play in college and play against each other as well and that was just the start. We both have the opportunity to continue to play and provide for ourselves and our families and, now that it’s here, you can look back and imagine all the things that you have to go through, all the good things, all the games, on the weekends having fun with each other and thinking about the things.
“I just know that makes both of us appreciate the position that we’re in and not take it for granted and make the most of it every day.”
While Wright is determined to make the most of his opportunity, he assured that he won’t forget that he’s lucky to still be playing the game he’s loved since he was a youngster.
“This is my life and this is a job but, at the end of the day, it’s football and it’s something that we all grew up playing because we genuinely enjoyed it,” he said. “So I’m trying to make sure that I keep that in the forefront of my mind and I handle my business with skill and go out and enjoy it each and every day.”