Between the time he got traded to the New England Patriots and the time he adopted the automation of the winningest NFL franchise of the 2000s, Tim Wright took a moment to consider the possibilities.
“I was very optimistic about every game that we played,” Wright told Gannett New Jersey before slipping into those clichés preferred by coach Bill Belichick. “You know, one game at a time, if we do our job and keep our head down, at the end of the road there would be some great promise for us.”
The Wall High School and Rutgers product from Neptune will reach the end of the road Sunday when the Patriots face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz. He expects his wife, parents, grandparents and a few aunts and uncles to be in the stands and knows he has many more fans at the Shore.
“There’s definitely going to be great love and support from back home,” said Wright, who still makes his offseason home in the area. “Especially with Rutgers being so close, I’m getting a lot of support from there, too.”
Wright’s college career took a while to get started – he redshirted his first season, suffered a season-ending torn ACL prior to his third and didn’t make his first catch until his fourth – but his pro career has been anything but slow-moving. The undrafted free agent already has switched positions and teams.
After transitioning from wide receiver to tight end and showing promise as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, Wright was traded for Patriots fan favorite and six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins in late August as insurance for oft-injured star Rob Gronkowski.
“I was very excited to face the challenge and everything it had to offer,” said Wright, who joined former Rutgers teammates Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon in New England. “That’s the nature of the league. You have to be ready to go anytime something happens. I took that mentality and the guys from Rutgers rallied around me.”
The trade drew criticism – quarterback Tom Brady reportedly “was not happy” – but McCourty liked what he saw in Wright, who had 39 catches as a redshirt senior at Rutgers, when the Patriots and Buccaneers practiced together in 2013.
“He puts in a lot of work, and I know he’s very happy to be here,” said McCourty, an All-Pro at cornerback and safety. “He’s learning from Gronk and from Tom, and that’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Gronkowski stayed healthy but Wright found a role in Belichick’s beloved two tight end-formations, catching 26 passes for 259 yards and six touchdowns while gaining Brady’s trust.
“I’ve been feeding off of it a lot and learning a lot of different things that Gronk does naturally, just by watching the way he prepares and the way he attacks the game,” Wright said. “I’m learning from the great Tom Brady all the ins and outs of the small things you don’t know as a young player.”
How does a young receiver penetrate Brady’s inner circle? Time and work ethic, Wright says.
“He has a great attitude towards the people who come to work,” Wright said. “You have to put in your time off the field and come out on the field to learn things from him. I’m not talking about you should be here or you should be there, but this how the defense plays it or why you should break a route off, from his point of view.”
While the physical and technical demands of blocking defensive linemen and linebackers rather than defensive backs still requires the biggest adjustment for Wright, Seattle’s defensive strength lies in the secondary. The “Legion of Boom” secondary intimidated Denver’s vaunted passing attack in a 43-8 Super Bowl rout last year.
“We just have to execute our job and stay poised,” Wright said. “Our preparation is going to be a big advantage for us going into this game.”
If it sounds like something said often at Rutgers, it’s not a surprise.
“Really taking your preparation to the next level is what I learned at Rutgers and it elevated to the next level once I got to the NFL,” Wright said. “As you get older, you understand where a coach is coming from as they explain how important the small details are.”
Contributing to a Super Bowl winner as a second-year pro? Some might call that a big detail.
“Every day you have to have a chip on your shoulder to get better to provide contributions to your team,” Wright said, “and keep yourself happy by having the mindset that you did everything you could to be the best you can be.”
Read More at app.com