Sonoma County’s Scooby Wright still grinding away on gridiron
When Scooby Wright III caught the ball near the 50-yard line in the United States Football League’s inaugural championship game earlier this month, he had one thing on his mind.
“Just score,” Wright recalled.
The interception, which gave the linebacker’s Birmingham Stallions the go-ahead touchdown with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, highlighted the latest chapter in the Sonoma County native’s professional career.
The former Cardinal Newman standout has played in multiple leagues since his collegiate days at the University of Arizona. After being drafted in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns, Wright was eventually cut but picked up by the Arizona Cardinals. After a two-year stint with the Cardinals, he was released and joined the Arizona Hotshots of the new Alliance of American Football. Prior to that league shutting down, Wright appeared in nine games.
He was signed by the New England Patriots but later released. He was then drafted by the XFL’s DC Defenders but left after the league suspended operations in 2020.
Wright kept trying to find his niche.
‘I was done with football’
After the XFL suspended operations, Wright was at a standstill. Despite his hard efforts, nothing was converting consistently on the field, so he looked for other things to do.
He started volunteering with the Schell-Vista Fire Protection District in southern Sonoma County, where his Pop Warner coach, Sean Witherell, was a fire captain. Wright also started training in mixed martial arts and was scheduled to have a bout this past May.
“I was done with football; I really didn’t care about it, to be honest,” he said.
But Wright still had his endless motor and was always seeking to learn more about whatever challenge was in front of him.
“He was always asking questions and just wanted to learn,” Witherell said. “He’s quick to learn and won’t take no for an answer.”
“I think you got some more left in you”
It was during his time away from football when Wright was contacted by John Chavis, the Stallions’ defensive coordinator.
The eight-team United States Football League was set to start up this past spring. The revival of the old 1980s-era USFL would play all its games in Birmingham, Alabama, in the third recent attempt to establish a spring football league in the U.S. following the AAF and XFL.
Wright ended up playing in all three.
“(Chavis) called me and said, ‘Hey, I think you got some more left in you,’” Wright said. “I sat around and thought about it for a few days, and said, ‘Why not?’”
“After he got that opportunity to go play, I told him to jump on it,” Witherell said. “The fire service will always be here when you come back.”
Wright was drafted by the Stallions on Feb. 23. Just as he did in his college days at Arizona, he made an immediate impact, winning Defensive Player of the Week in Week 4 for his performance against the Tampa Bay Bandits.
He collected six total tackles and a sack in a 16-10 win that moved the Stallions to 4-0 on the season.
In the league championship game against the Philadelphia Stars on July 3, Wright’s interception return for a touchdown came as the Stars were driving toward midfield late in the fourth quarter.
He ran the ball more than 45 yards into the end zone, and with the extra point gave the Stallions all they needed to hang on for a 33-30 win for the USFL title.
“You talk about someone who is all in on football, that’s him,” Former Cardinal Newman head coach Paul Cronin said of his onetime player. “100 percent.”
And Wright now believes he still has more in the tank.
“I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, and I can truly say that,” he declared. “Honestly, I think I have my grown man years ahead of me, and I’m only 27 years old.”