Faith, perseverance paying off for UF running back Wright
Some might say running back Nay’Quan Wright has come out of nowhere to become Florida’s newest playmaker on offense.
The reality is, he didn’t come out of nowhere. He came from somewhere. And that somewhere — Miami — has shaped who he is and how he plans to live his life.
“Growing up as a kid in Miami, I faced a lot of obstacles,” Wright said. “(It taught me that) some bumps in the road are going to come. They may hit you unexpectedly, but you have to move on. Adversity, it builds a person. I’m a person that it built. I don’t dwell on it. I just move forward.”
The biggest and most harrowing adversity came early in his life, when he was 11 or 12. It came unexpectedly, out of nowhere, when shots rang out near his football practice one day and he was struck by a bullet.
“It was just a regular day at practice,” Wright said. “Shots (were) fired, and coach was yelling, ‘Get down.’ Everyone got down. And then a bullet ricochet off the ground hit me. And I noticed a couple other people got shot also.
“The doctor said I wouldn’t (live). My family got a call that I had passed away. I overcame that with the grace of God.”
Wright said the incident changed him as a person. The biggest thing it did was strengthen his faith.
“It just made my connection with God pretty (strong),” he said. “As a person, he changed me, made me always move on and don’t take life for granted, just let me know that my life is not my own.”
His faith has taught him patience and perseverance. And those two qualities have come into play at various times throughout his football career.
Early in his high school career, Wright was considered one of the nation’s elite running back prospects. In his sophomore season, he helped Miami Carol City win the Class 6A state championship, rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Scholarship offers poured in from across the country.
But in the spring before his junior season, he broke his ankle and many of the schools who had offered backed out. Florida and Georgia didn’t, and he ended up signing with the Gators in 2019.
“A lot of schools backed off me. That’s just natural,” Wright said. “It’s a business. If you can’t produce, no one is going to communicate with you. Florida and Georgia, those were the two main schools (that kept recruiting me). In the end, it just boiled down to those two schools.”
Wright has had to be patient and persevere at Florida as well. He redshirted last season, then started the 2020 season third on the depth chart behind juniors Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis.
His playing time was limited in the first two games, and had only five carries for two yards and two receptions for 30.
But last Saturday against Texas A&M, his role was expanded — and he delivered. He led the Gators in rushing (31 yards on six carries), scored on a 1-yard run in the first half and had a 26-yard catch-and-run in the second half that led to another TD.
“First and foremost I’ve got to give the credit to the Man above for blessing me with the opportunity to be out there,” Wright said. “I’ve just been working hard to work for opportunities, so when it presented itself I just took advantage of it.
“I always knew I could do it. I was just waiting on my opportunity. I was doing it in camp, so it wasn’t a surprise to me. I just waited patiently, waited my turn.”
More turns surely will be coming.
“If the opportunity presents itself, I've been preparing for it,” he said. “If not, I'm just going to take the opportunity that the coaches give me, and when my number gets called, I’m going to take advantage.”
Whatever happens the rest of the season, Wright has become a feel-good story on the UF roster.
“I got a chance to really know him well during the recruiting process down there in Miami, and his story is just so unbelievable,” offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said. “The adversity that he has faced in his life. Him being injured in high school, him being an all-world … five-star … all this kind of a player as a sophomore, breaking his ankle and having to go through that injury. He has a wonderful family, a wonderful support system.
“I can’t say enough good things about the kid. Him and Randy Russell went to the same high school. And just talk about two unbelievable dudes that do everything right, that have unbelievable passion, demeanor and maturity about themselves that will set them up for a lifetime of success.”
So, no, Wright didn’t come out of nowhere last Saturday. He came from somewhere.
Who: LSU (1-2) vs. No. 9 Florida (2-1)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850