Cal grad kick starts promising NFL career

Punter Ryan Wright spends his rookie season with Minnesota


Photo Coutesy of the Minnesota Vikings

Cal High graduate Ryan Wright celebrates after a succesful punt during his first season with the Minnesota Vikings.

Cal High athletes go on to play sports at the next level every year, but few make it big.
Ryan Wright is an exception.
The 2018 Cal High graduate recently completed his first season as a NFL player, serving as the Minnesota Vikings punter and ranking among the top 15 punters in the league.
He averaged 47.4 yards per punt as a rookie and was sixth in punts inside the 20 yard line with 32. He also recorded the eighth longest punt of the season at a whopping 73 yards.
“My dad coached and played some JC ball and I think I grew up in a football house,” Wright said.
Standing now at 6-foot-3, 245-pounds, Wright was a dual sport athlete at Cal, playing football and baseball. He was the top-ranked punter in the country his senior season and earned First Team All-American Honors by MaxPreps.
In addition to being a highly touted punter, Wright also threw for more than 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in two seasons as the Grizzlies’ starting quarterback.
Although Wright was recruited at quarterback by smaller schools, he received more attention at punter. Wright ended up punting at Tulane University in New Orleans for four years.
“The difference between high school and college was bigger just because everyone is faster, stronger and most of the players are older than you,” Wright said.
After his college career ended, Wright set his sights on the NFL.
“The pre-draft process was kinda shaky for me,” Wright said. “I didn’t get invited to any senior bowls and I didn’t get invited to the combine so the only thing I had was my pro day and my agent got me into a couple of workouts.”
During the pre-draft process, Wright put in a lot of work to get faster, stronger, and to refine his technique. He even had a punting workout at the Cal High field last spring.
His hard work paid off as he got his first call from the Vikings while at Tulane. Special teams coordinator Matt Daniels told him he was a player of interest and they ended up signing him as an undrafted free agent.
“I want to be as consistent as I can, reach my ceiling, and do whatever I can to help the team be better and thats flipping the field, giving our defense more field to cover and bailing out our offense,” Wright said.
When at Tulane, Wright looked up to then-New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead. He actually got to workout with Morstead and pick his brain, and he attributes a lot of his success to him.
“It was really cool to watch him come hit on our field when they couldn’t use their facilities,” Wright said. “I got to see an all class pro punter right in front of my eyes and he’s given me so much advice and so many things to work on.”
When the Vikings defeated the Dolphins 24-16 this season, Wright and Mortstead, who now punts for Miami, swapped jerseys. Wright set a record in that game by dropping six of his 10 punts inside the Dolphins’ 20 yard line.
The Vikings won the NFC North with a 13-4 record but lost in the first round of the playoffs.
When recalling his time at Cal, two coaches stood out: Chris Torrey and Eric Belleci. Cal’s former football coach, Belleci was Wright’s favorite coach while at Cal.
Belleci, who still teaches on campus but does not coach football anymore, declined to be interviewed for this story.
Torrey, who is Cal’s former assistant football coach and works as a campus monitor, has a close relationship with Wright and they remain in contact.
“He was phenomenal, one of the most hardest working dudes that I’ve had the pleasure of coaching,” Torrey said.
Wright was a ball boy for the Grizzlies in middle school and Torrey could see his potential from a young age.
“I feel like he brought the guys up, just by doing really good things, being positive,” Torrey said.
Wright got to the big stage by no accident. It takes a different breed and person to have the work ethic to make it far.
“He was one of the rare dudes who worked harder than almost anyone out there,” Torrey said. “[He] came early, stayed late that type of work.”
Wright’s father, Ray Wright, has been there throughout his son’s whole journey and has had a big impact on him.
“Others can see his focus and determination,” Ray Wright said. “I think people around him root for him because hes a like-able guy and they see how hard he works.”
To help him along the way, Ray Wright enrolled his son in many camps to make him a better player. He also helped him maintain his focus on his goal. But the rest was on his son.
“There were times it would be a Friday or Saturday night when the lights would turn off at the field he was training at and he would stay out there so he could punt in the dark, knowing many of his classmates and teammates were out with friends,” Ray Wright said. “He had a vision of his future and did everything in his power to realize that vision.”