Slow & Steady: Florida's Nay'Quan Wright identifies with tortoise from famous fable
The turtle emoji first appeared on UF running back Nay’Quan Wright’s Twitter timeline March 7.
It was back again April 28, this time with the caption, “Don’t count me out so soon.”
The turtle made two more appearances in September, and another last month.
A Florida fan caught the meaning behind Wright’s tweet on Sept. 19, breathing a sigh of relief.
“Whew....thought for a minute you were announcing a transfer to Maryland!”
Wright is all Gator, but identifies with its reptilian relative. His turtle references are rooted in the famous fable from ancient Greek storyteller Aesop, The Tortoise and the Hare.
One of Wright’s family members told him about the story.
“We just have this little group chat where we pick each other’s brains and learn from one another,” he said.
Aesop’s fable tells the story of a speedy rabbit who gets challenged to a race by a tortoise, tired of hearing the hare’s haughtiness. The rabbit quickly took the lead and, confident of winning, stopped to nap midway through the race. He was awoken by cheers for the tortoise, crawling slowly but steadily, as it approached the finish line.
“And in the end, the turtle won,” Wright said.
Like that tortoise, Wright knows the feeling of being counted out all too well. At Florida, for example, few expected him to contribute significantly, especially after a pair of five-star transfers at his position.
He’s the shortest back on UF’s roster (5-foot-9), not the fastest and four of the five are heavier than his listed weight (196 pounds). But Wright has been a staple in the rotation the past two years, rushing for 523 yards on 127 carries (4.1 avg.), catching 32 passes for 399 yards and scoring four total touchdowns.
He’s had the hot hand at times this season, including against Alabama when he rushed for a career-high 58 yards on seven carries (8.3 avg.) and made an 18-yard reception.
“Life of the turtle,” Wright tweeted the day after the game.
Wright’s life, however, doesn’t revolve around football. His success isn’t defined by stats or games, and the gridiron isn’t the only field he’s trying to compete in.
“I want to win,” Wright said. “My family preaches we just want to win at life. And that’s the end goal — winning at life. Not just on the field, not just winning no natty or no championship. I mean, we gotta win at life. The end goal: get a degree, get a master’s, set myself up for success, set my family up and the generation that comes after me. So the life of the turtle is basically a process, ups and downs, and in the end the turtle definitely came out on top.
“I took (that story) and ran with it. Because as I reflect, it defines my life and what I’ve been through.”
Wright opened up to the media in 2020 about the obstacles he faced growing up in Miami.
At 11 years old, Wright was shot in the chest during a drive-by shooting while practicing with his youth football team.
“It was just a regular day at practice,” Wright recalled last year. “Shots fired, our coach was yelling, ‘Get down!’ Everyone got down, then a bullet ricocheted off the ground and hit me. And I noticed a couple other people got shot also,” said Wright, who suffered nerve damage in his left hand. “I overcame that with the grace of God.”
Wright also broke his ankle as a high school junior, which derailed his recruiting process after he helped lead Carol City to a state title win in 2016. Most schools stopped calling after his injury — counting him out — but Florida didn’t.
The coaches kept pursuing Wright, and he’s made their efforts worthwhile with his progression and production at UF. Though this season has been difficult for the 5-5 Gators, Wright still appreciates the chance to compete.
“It’s just a blessing to be here and play the game of football that I love to death,” Wright said. “I’m just blessed to be here, that God continues to bless me with opportunities. Each and every day I wake up, I’m just thankful that I’m here.”
Who: Florida (5-5, 2-5 SEC) vs. Missouri (5-5, 2-4)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field, Columbia, Mo.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850