The Wright Buc
By Wayne Wood
The young Wright sisters of Hoover (Laura, Katy, Susan & Jackie) got the idea one day that it would be cute to dress up their baby brother as a little girl. After all, they were so use to dressing up dolls and each other at times perhaps their little brother wouldn’t know the difference & couldn’t really protest.
So the girls proceeded to have their innocent fun dressing up little Johnny in a girls dress and fixing up his blond hair in a little girl curly curl style. Maybe put on a bit of lipstick too. Well, this suddenly and drastically changed when their father arrived home and saw this situation. Needless to say, it changed immediately.
Papa Jack Wright didn’t actually “hit the roof” with shocked anxiety but it came close. He had always wanted to have a son in his family & now his four daughters were making the boy look like another girl!!!
Lee John Wright III obviously had some sibling challenges along the way but his four older sisters were all sweet girls who took after the traits of their mother who was a very classy & delightful lady. Eventually, they took that positive aspect into their adult lives having families of their own.
I first knew Johnny Wright (I always called him Johnny although he preferred John) when he was a little boy seeing him at times when his sisters went to Simmons Middle School in Hoover. The oldest 3 girls graduated from Berry High School while the youngest graduated from Hoover High when it was a young school.
Johnny was a fine student while also participating in football & wrestling in athletics as a Simmons 7th & 8th grader in the late 1990’s. As feminine as his sisters were, he became more than opposite in that he was a strong, tough & aggressive young male athlete.
He started at Hoover High School in 1999 as a freshman merging with a fine group of athletes like Chad Jackson among others. When he played as a sophomore on the varsity in 2000, he worked into the playing rotation at defensive tackle as an immediate backup. That squad went on to win a state championship. In the televised state title win over Daphne he once made a big play and was referred to by the announcers as “Johnny on the Spot” for his efforts.
In 2001, Johnny became a junior starter at DT as the Bucs went 14-0 until losing in the state title game to Daphne. His season season of 2002, the Bucs only lost one regular season game (a homecoming game to Tuscaloosa County). However, they gained revenge in the quarter-final playoff game beating the Wildcats badly.
The 2002 Buc squad made it to the state title game again where they beat Jeff Davis/Montgomery. Late in the televised broadcast, the announcers were debating who should win the MVP for Hoover. One announcer fervently promoted John Wright as a candidate saying that it was his defensive play which swung the momentum around at key times early in the game. Highly recruited star senior receiver Chad Jackson won the award but Johnny received some strong endorsement.
Also his high school career, Johnny became a solid wrestler in the heavyweight division. His senior season, he won the state heavyweight individual championship which helped his team win the overall team state championship-the first since 1972 (more than 30 years previous).
Johnny signed a football scholarship with Army from West Point. After a brief required time at an academy he entered the prestigious West Point school eventually starting on the D-Line for the Cadets his last seasons. From here, I will relate his reflection of his time in high school, college & career.
“After reflecting on Hoover High and West Point, I would be willing to say that passion has driven me to do most things in life. In concern to football, it has always been something I’m passionate about. Under Coach Propst, I feel passion helped develop a winning mindset.
First, I remember our first varsity game my sophomore vs. Jess Lanier/Bessemer at Legion Field for the opening contest of the year in 2000. We were winning 35-0 at halftime. When I was in the locker room, I remember thinking…’we should focus on running the clock out.’ But that was not the message Coach Propst delivered. He said that we should never let up and that it was the opponents fault for not preparing to play us. That type of mindset was new to me. I had never thought of it that way.
Second, I remember losing the state championship my junior year to Daphne in 2001. Coach Propst communicated that complacency had set in and how you have to work to overcome it. I learned that if you are going to win, you can never be satisfied with your past performances.
Third, under Coach Propst, I just loved how he encouraged us to be ferocious. During my senior year, he would get on us because fights would not break out anymore. So we started every practice with an Oklahoma Drill in order to encourage ferociousness in every practice. When I reflect now, I realize that you need to do things to keep your competitive edge about you.
In concern to wrestling, that was driven by my best friend-Austin Milster. They needed a Heavyweight and I was glad to help. In addition, if I’m going to do something…I plan on doing everything in my power to win. I was lucky and ended up going undefeated that season of 2002-2003.
In concern to West Point, my decision was driven by passion. The 9/11 tragedy occurred my junior year and it made me focus more on the recruitment from military academies. Based on wanting to fight in the war against terror and offering a solid education, I felt it was the best choice for me. Also, I needed the structure. If I went to regular college, I would have too many distractions.
Once I graduated from West Point, I did just over 5 years in the Army as a Field Artillery Officer. I spent some time in Iraq and South Korea. I found the Army being great during my 20’s age and truly loved my soldiers and brothers-in-arms but I wanted to try the business world in order to face a new challenge.
I now find myself working within the Craft Beer World in California and working for my brothers-in-arms. My boss went to West Point. It should be interesting to see how everything works out but I plan on always trying to bring a winning mindset (Coach Propst instilled) when approaching anything in life.”
John’s parents still live in Hoover (his father served several years as president of the Hoover City Council) and his older sisters live with their families in various locations. Johnny Wright is truly a Buccaneer Legend.