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Thursday, September 8, 2005

Wright living the dream with Pats

By Bill Koch

Enquirer staff writer

After all the sweat and pain that Mike Wright endured in his quest for the NFL, it would seem appropriate when he made it that a coach would have given him the official word.

But it didn't work that way.

"I was actually told by the equipment manager (on Sunday)," Wright said. "He asked me if I wanted a new number. I said, 'Does that mean I'm on the roster?' He said, 'Yeah.' I guess that's how they do it."

Wright, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound undrafted free agent defensive tackle from the University of Cincinnati and Purcell Marian High School, isn't complaining. All he cares about is that he's a member of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and will be making his NFL debut tonight against the Oakland Raiders. At the age of 23, he has achieved his life's goal.

"I always had that goal in the back of my mind to reach the NFL," Wright said, "to find out if I could really do it. It turns out that I can."

It's been a long, difficult road. Wright started his college career at Division II Ashland (Ohio) University in 2000, then transferred to UC after one season without a scholarship or even the promise that he'd be allowed to try out. He sat out 2001 as a transfer, then won a starting job during summer camp in 2002 only to blow out his left knee during a scrimmage. He missed the season, but he never gave up.

"Those were just little setbacks that didn't stop me from achieving my goal," Wright said.

After he made the team, Wright said, Patriots' safety Rodney Harrison pulled him aside.

"He congratulated me and said the easy part is making the team," Wright said. "But the harder part is sticking around. Now is the time to start the real work. That really meant a lot coming from a guy that good."

Wright is one of five players from last year's UC team still in the NFL: Defensive end Trent Cole, a fourth-round pick, is with Philadelphia; defensive end Andre Frazier made Pittsburgh's practice squad; cornerback Daven Holly is with Chicago; and fifth-round pick linebacker Tyjuan Hagler is with Indianapolis.

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