FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
THREE-PART SERIES: FORMER FIVE-STARS WITH AN ASTERISK
- Part I – Shorter the right player at the right time
- Part II – Cox excited, ready to flourish at Florida
- (Free) Part III – Lingard finding his stride at Florida
Most people know Major Wright as a star safety on one of the greatest teams in college football history who delivered a massive hit in the national championship game and went on to enjoy a seven-year professional career.
However, Wright’s story isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, as he endured numerous challenges during his football journey and beyond. Wright chronicles these obstacles and provides inspiration in his newly released book “Major Pain: Confessions of a Smash-Mouth Safety.”
To commemorate the release of his book, Inside The Gators caught up with Wright to write our own ‘book’ on his football career and post-retirement activities.
Related: Part I The Florida Years
Chapter VI: The NFL years
After a junior season in 2009 in which he made 32 tackles and three interceptions, Wright declared for the NFL Draft.
Wright’s early departure wasn’t as simple as him wanting to test his abilities at the highest level and make a boatload of money. He said there’s a story behind his decision that a lot of fans might not know. However, he wouldn’t divulge any specifics, as he doesn’t want to spoil his newly released book (more on that later).
The Chicago Bears selected him in the third round of the 2010 draft. He played seven seasons with the Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was most productive during the 2012-13 seasons with the Bears, in which he combined for 171 tackles, six interceptions, three forced fumbles and two touchdowns.
“Life was amazing in the NFL,” he said. “It’s a dream come true, something you’ve been working hard for your whole entire life. To come to fruition, it’s amazing. Everything about it is great. Playing on that next level, playing with guys that you grew up watching like Brian Urlacher, Devin Hester, Julius Peppers, playing with those guys, it’s like a dream come true, honestly.”
Wright said the biggest difference he noticed between college and the NFL is how competitive the NFL is. Most NFL careers don’t last longer than a few years, and there are only 53 spots on active rosters. The result is more focused players and greater attention to detail at practices.
“It’s no time for error,” he said. “It’s a lot faster. You got guys out there who are trying to feed their family, so they’re going to do whatever it takes to get the job done. That’s what makes the NFL so much different than college. You got guys who really are going to go out there and do whatever it takes to feed their family. I don’t think a lot of people understand it, but man, these guys, you’re a professional. So, you know, if my route needs to be broken off at five yards, it’s going to be broken off at five yards, not six, not 4 ½.”
While he never made an All-Pro team or signed a mega-contract, he is satisfied with his pro career.
“I’m with peace with football in general,” Wright said. “Yeah, I didn’t make the Hall of Fame, yeah, I didn’t make that, but honestly, in my family’s eyes, I’m a Hall of Famer. Maybe I didn’t make the stats and prove it to the NFL, but it don’t get no bigger than my family. I don’t have any regrets.
“I feel like my first interception, my first pick-six, I got a lot of pivotal moments that happened in my life in the NFL, and just you can’t really describe it. I got a bunch of those.”
Like a lot of players, Wright didn’t get to leave the league on his own terms. The Buccaneers waived him during the 2016 preseason but resigned him in late November. After playing in two games, they released him for good. He waited a while for an opportunity to play somewhere else, but the call never came. Even though he felt like he could’ve played five more years, he decided to hang up his cleats.
“Life is more than just football,” he said. “I gave football 26 years of my life. Now it’s like, ‘Major, what’s the next best thing you going to be great at? What else they going to remember you as?’”
I grew up not knowing how to read well, it discouraged me from trying. I also hated writing because I was never good at it. But look at me now!
Morning reading became my new routine and I wrote my own book.
You can do anything you put your mind to with just believing in yourself.
Chapter VII: Life without football
Though he was content with what he had accomplished on the football field, the transition from athlete to retired athlete was rough for Wright. For 26 years, football played a large role in his life. Most of his waking hours were consumed with playing football or preparing to play football. Then, suddenly, it was all gone. Like a lot of professional athletes, he struggled to discover who he was without football and what to do with the rest of his life.
“It was really bad,” he said. “I don’t wish that on my worst enemy. It was really bad for me. I went into a dark place. I was in depression. I just wasn’t Major. I didn’t know who Major was. I lost Major in that mix at one point.”
Eventually, he found some new things to do in the next phase of his life and ways to give back to the community.
Over the past several years, he started his foundation, The Wright Way, which provides support for single mothers; began doing “Good Deed Tuesdays” once a month, in which he performs random acts of kindness; launched a backpack company called The Wright Baagz
He also held a camp in South Florida for football players from Pop Warner age all the way up to high school that some of UF’s coaches attended.
“I’m doing something to better myself each and every day to become a better person,” Wright said.
“I’ve been grinding and just trying to stay focused on Major and continue to build my brand.”
Chapter VIII: Author
On Friday, Wright announced the release of “Major Pain.” The book details some of the challenges and difficulties he encountered on his rise to football stardom and his post-football depression.
He got the inspiration to write the book from an ex-girlfriend who owns a consulting company. They were talking on the phone one day when “out of the blue” she told him that he should write a book because he had a story that others would love to read. Coincidentally, Wright had been reading “15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” by John Maxwell. He remembered that one of Maxwell’s tips was “if you want to do something, act on it now because if you don’t, it will never happen.”
He decided to do it. After he got off the phone, he grabbed a notepad and pen and jotted down five chapters he wanted to include in his book. He wrote four pages the following day, found motivation and kept writing until he finished the book.
While the book follows Wright’s journey, he wants to make it clear that this isn’t a book that only sports fans will enjoy. There is something in his book for everyone.
“I want it to be something relatable that we all can relate to, and everybody can relate to obstacles,” he said. “My book isn’t just for athletes or a certain crowd. It’s for everybody, and I want everybody to understand that if you want to do something, it all relies on you. You are the common denominator to making it out of whatever it is that you in. Whatever situation that you in, however it is, it all relies within you. So, if you believe in yourself and know that you can do it, you going to do it.”
He also hopes his book helps other retired football players who are struggling with their mental health without sports in their lives.
“I want to be able to tell my story and get other people to tell their story, so we could stop this story,” Wright said. “We can maybe eventually come up with a solution to making it a softer landing post-football career. The NFL is doing a really good job, but sometimes I think, pride for sure for me got in the way for asking for help from the NFL. I just feel like if we come up with a better solution with making it a softer landing, it would be great.”
Visit www.majorwright.com to purchase your copy.