Sophomore football player a leader for moral, athletic reasons

Published: October 31, 2012, 11:53 pm ET
Collegian Reporter

Sophomore linebacker Eric Wright has become a respected leader on the University of Richmond’s football team, not only because of his talent, but also because of his moral character and religious devotion.

“The Sunday right before I was coming to Richmond, I received the Holy Ghost and was baptized in Jesus’ name,” Wright said. “And I’ve been living for Jesus ever since. I guess it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Wright made this decision when his friend told him about a life more free from sin, he said.

Wright’s new religion stems from receiving the Holy Ghost, he said, and when he did, he received Jesus.

“I guess that when the Holy Ghost comes in, it gives you a new mind, or you’re a new creature,” he said. “There’s power in the Holy Ghost because he changes your whole mind outlook. … I used to have a sinful-natured mind. I would go out and party and do the typical high school thing.”

Since devoting himself to a new religion, Wright no longer goes out on the weekends, he said. He tries to live an abstinent life and attends church every Sunday, unless he has football practice.

Although all college campuses provide temptation, the university has been a good atmosphere for Wright to maintain his lifestyle, he said, mainly because of its size. The school also provides opportunities, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, in which Wright holds a leadership position, coach Danny Rocco said.

Although Wright does not have a daily routine of worship, he tries to read the Bible every day, he said. “Even if I’m not praying on my knees, I’m in constant communication [with God], Wright said. “It’s like he’s my best friend.

“My new religion is my whole entire life. Everything that I try to do is to give glory to God; less of me, more of God.”

Although completely devoted to his religion, Wright and his coaches said that he had never tried to force his beliefs on anyone else. And despite the changes that Wright has made, he has emphasized that he, like everyone else, is still considered a sinner, according to the Bible.

Rocco has recognized Wright for having a humble character. “He’s a person who has great humility and great work ethic,” he said. “He’s shown me he values integrity and relationships.”

Wright’s position coach, Byron Thweatt, who recruited him, said that he had benefited from his relationship with Wright.

“Eric lives his life according to the Bible, as Jesus would want him to,” Thweatt said. Although he inevitably makes mistakes at times, Wright adheres to this lifestyle more than most people would, and being around this type of devotion has made Thweatt a better person, Thweatt said.

“He’s trusting, and he’s just a good guy,” Thweatt said. “You would expect him to always do the right thing. You want everyone on the team to be like him.”

Rocco said: “It’s hard to devalue what you see Eric do. To be honest, a lot of us probably wish we were more like that.”

Although the team embodies great diversity, all of Wright’s fellow teammates respect him for his talent and his willingness to make a conscious effort to do the right thing, Rocco said, which he attributes mainly to Wright’s Christian values. As a result, Wright manages to please his peers, coaches and family, Rocco said, despite the academic and athletic demands that he faces as a college student.

“He is a really good player for our team, and he’s among the leaders in the conference for tackles,” senior fullback Kendall Gaskins said. “As a person, he’s even better. He’s very religious and goes to church all the time. He’s just a great guy overall.”

Wright’s coaches have also recognized his leadership on the team. Leadership takes time, Rocco said, but in Wright’s first year, he had already validated himself as a player through his consistency and will to win.

As of right now, Wright leads more through his actions, but, in time, Rocco hopes that he will become more confident and vocal, he said.

“I just want him to be successful, not only as an athlete, but as a person,” Thweatt said. “Right now he’s kind of leading by example because he’s doing everything the right way. As he gets older, we’ll look to him to be a more vocal leader.”

If Wright continues on the same path, he will probably become a team captain, Thweatt said.

Although Wright has played football since the second grade, he is unsure whether he wants to pursue the sport after graduation, he said.

“I’m just excited to get the degree, to tell you the truth,” Wright said, “and I just want to win a championship, both national and conference. But just winning one would be satisfactory.”

Contact reporter Jamie Edelen at jamie.edelen@richmond.edu

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