Wenkers Wright only has vague childhood memories of growing up in a Haitian orphanage. But he does vividly remember playing soccer.
“I remember always playing soccer barefooted on the gravel,” he said. “Kicked the concrete by accident, go back and go for the ball.”
It was the genesis of Wright’s athletic career. He raced on the grounds of the orphanage in Petionville, Haiti. Wright said the one-floor building and its bordering field was about the size of a football field.
“Anybody that wanted to play, played,” he said. “We didn’t have anything to do after school. You couldn’t go outside the orphanage, so I played soccer and had some fun.”
About a decade later, now a junior at Floyd Central (Floyds Knobs, Indiana), the running back is roaming all over an actual football field and headlining the Highlanders’ offense. Wright has 1,001 rushing yards in four games, which according to coach James Bragg, ranked No. 1 in the state of Indiana as of Week 4. He has also scored 12 touchdowns.
Emerging from a backup last year to a starter this season, Wright has been on every opponent’s scouting report. But what cannot be overlooked is the winding path of his upbringing.
Wright for years didn’t know exactly know how many siblings he had. Not long after he was born, he and one of his older brothers, Gregory, were put into an orphanage. Wright knows he has a younger sister, and believes he has three more brothers besides Gregory, who also played football at Floyd Central.
Betsy Wright, Wenkers’ adopted mother, said that Wenkers has six older brothers and one younger sister. His family is originally from Cité Soleil, one of the poorest areas in the Western Hemisphere.
His memories of the orphanage consist of playing soccer, attending school and eating butter noodles with ketchup.
“That was the meal. I had that all the time,” Wright recalled. “It was just the certain way they made it because nowadays, I would not eat that. There is no way you can create it in America and have it taste good like it did back then because that does not sound appealing to me right now.”
On December 15, 2007, after going through two years and seven months of the adoption process, Betsy and her husband Shawn Wright drove a pickup truck to the orphanage to meet and bring Wenkers and Gregory to their newest home in Southern Indiana.
“Gregory just walked right up to me. Your mama heart just fills up and I was trying not to overwhelm him by grabbing him and squeezing him and crying,” Betsy said. “Wenkers held back just a little bit. That day is soaked in my mind.”
Betsy and Shawn, wearing blue T-shirts with the words “Wright Family,” brought Domino’s Pizza for everyone at the orphanage, but Wenkers remembers not liking the pizza at all.
“Everybody likes pizza right? I did not like it,” he said. “I filled up on M&Ms that day.”
The first memory Wenkers has of America is of a group of people wearing the same shirts Betsy and Shawn were wearing, waiting for them at the airport with balloons.
“My parents walked me and my brother to the big group of people and everyone hugged us,” he said. “They gave us a stuffed animal. I didn’t know who these people were, but they come to be my whole family.”