It’s the sound of the crowd on long touchdown passes that seduces FAU sophomore speedster Willie Wright.
“First they’re gasping for breath when the ball’s in the air,” Wright said, “Then you catch it and crowd just goes ROAR!”
Wright scored touchdowns through the air and on the ground as a true freshman last season – wiggling around some defenders, blowing past others. The first score of his college career detonated of a new level of explosiveness for FAU football.
In the Owls’ opener against Navy – Wright’s first collegiate game – he streaked down the left hash marks, racing under a Daniel Parr throw, securing the ball then blazing the remainder of the way for a 95-yard touchdown – the longest passing touchdown in program history.
“It’s quiet, then it’s out of control,” Wright recalls from that play.
Wright led the Owls with 56 receptions and 657 receiving yards last season. His seven total touchdowns trailed only running back Devin Singletary and quarterback Jason Driskel.
That kind of production caught Wright a bit off guard.
“When I first got here I really didn’t expect to start,” Wright said. “I was trying to learn because it was my first year in college.”
Listed at 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds – both of which could be exaggerations – Wright initially struggled to adjust to the speed of the college game.
He dropped some passes in fall camp and struggled with confidence.
Offensive players are generally slow to praise defenders. Not Wright, who credits FAU’s secondary with getting him ready for a staring role.
“Going against Jalen [Young], Shelton Louis, [Chris] Tooley and Herb [Miller], they helped me a lot with it,” Wright said.
Young and Co. sharpened Wright, who lined up mostly in the slot, into a Conference USA All-Freshman performer. Wright, though, says he’s only getting started.
“I just want to prove I’m just not an inside guy, I can dominate on the outside, too,” Wright said.
He’s also pretty confident about his punt return abilities.
Wright averaged 13.5 yards on his two punt returns last season. He expects more opportunities this season.
“I’m special back there,” Wright said. “Nobody can stop me in the punt return.”
Wright missed the first few spring practices with an undisclosed medical issue.
Saturday’s scrimmage marked the first time this spring Wright was cleared for contact. He responded with the biggest offensive play of the day, catching a 50-yard touchdown pass from De’Andre Johnson.
“It feels good to do it again,” Wright said. “And again. And Again.”