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Isaiah Wright Made The Team As An Undrafted Free Agent. Now He's Preparing For His First-Career Catch

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Isaiah Wright catches a pass during training camp. (Elijah Walter Griffen Sr./Washington Football Team)

Isaiah Wright could hear the artificial crowd noise during the Washington Football Team's practice at FedExField on Aug. 31 as he fought past Greg Stroman and sprinted down the left sideline.

Kyle Allen had his eyes on Wright from the moment the ball was snapped, and after giving Wright the chance to gain a couple of steps on Stroman, he launched the ball towards the undrafted rookie. A split second was all Wright needed to stop himself, leap over Stroman and snag the ball out of the air before stepping out of bounds.

"I knew that camp was almost over and I needed to finish strong and be more consistent," Wright told reporters Sept. 8. "I was just trying to make as many plays as I could and keep good faith and talking to God. It's crazy how literally that's all I did and everything started to come into fruition."

Call it divine intervention, but whatever Wright did worked, as he survived roster cuts and made Washington's 53-man roster. Wright has had the team's attention for some time now, and although he has yet to make a catch in an NFL game, he plans on being ready for the moment he can make an impact on offense.

"I can only control what I can control, and what I can control is...my attitude and how prepared I am," he said. "As long as I stay on top of those [two] things, I should be here as long as I'm needed."

As one of four undrafted free agents Washington signed in the offseason, Wright was nervous about doing enough to earn a roster spot during training camp. There were only two weeks of padded practices because of the novel coronavirus, and he was surrounded by veterans and draft picks.

It was a lot of added pressure, Wright said, but then he started to embrace his situation. He knew his capabilities, and his teammates were telling him he deserved to be on the field.

"Being able to embrace the position, you kind of feel stronger and it gives you that chip on your shoulder. And with that chip, I was able to motivate myself to do more."

Wright started to get more acclimated to Washington's offense and the speed of practice. He wasn't trying to force things anymore; everything was happening naturally, he said. That's when his number of reps started to go up, and he realized that as long as he did his job, more opportunities would come his way.

One of the best ways for Wright to learn how to do that is to stay close to second-year receiver Terry McLaurin. As a player who head coach Ron Rivera has called "a true pro," McLaurin has been a model of consistency for Wright to follow.

"I get to see how he practices every day, and the type of tempo and the type of urgency that he brings and that he has in his game," Wright said. "I think that sets him apart, and I think that I can use what I learned from him, that'll help set me apart."

McLaurin said Wright is a player who wants to do everything that is asked of him. There are times when Wright tends to overthink situations, but he similar struggles during his rookie year as well. He can tell Wright is hungry to help the team in any way he can.

"If he keeps that mentality and that work ethic, trying to focus on his craft," McLaurin said, "I think he can develop even quicker than he even anticipates."

Wright said he is no stranger to hard work, and Rivera has noticed his effort. He believes Wright would have benefitted from participating in OTAs and minicamp, but after Washington's scrimmage Rivera said the former Temple Owl has done a nice job given the circumstances.

"We're just starting to see that he's starting to understand, he's starting to get it. There's a lot to learn in what we do, so he's learning that as well. As he starts to get more and more comfortable, he's playing faster and faster."

It also helps that Wright has experience as a returner on special teams. He amassed 2,473 yards and five touchdowns returning punts and kickoffs in four seasons with the Owls. He averaged 24.2 per kickoff return and 10.3 yards per punt return. So far, all 10 of Wright snaps for Washington have come on special teams.

Wright knows the importance of getting as many reps as possible, especially as an undrafted free agent, so he's up for doing whatever his coaches ask of him.

"I'm versatile, so wherever [special teams coordinator] Nate [Kaczor] needs me is where I'll play," Wright said. "I'm working to better my knowledge in special teams, and it's been very easy working with guys like Coach Nate and [assistant special teams coach] Ben Jacobs. I'm just blessed for the opportunity and very appreciative."

Wright's special teams background, combined with plays like the one he made at FedExField, likely helped his cause, but he didn't know what to expect as roster cuts loomed Sept. 5. The news finally came that Wright made the roster, and he immediately called his mom to share an emotional moment.

"We both cried together. And then I called my cousins, and it was the same moment. A lot of people expected it for me. I didn't want to be cocky about my situation, and like I said, I didn't know what to expect, so it was just a very overwhelming situation for me and I was very happy."

It was a moment Wright won't soon forget. The next step is for him to get his first-career catch. It has not happened yet, but if he keeps the same attitude and work ethic, it could be just a matter of time before Wright's next big catch at FedExField is in a real game.

"This is just a moment of showing me where hard work can get you if you're consistent with it," he said. "It's only motivated me to continue that."

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