Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright wins 2014 Bronko Nagurski Trophy

December 9, 2014

After an outstanding season in which he led his team to the top of the Pac-12 South Division, an upset victory over playoff-bound Oregon, and a Fiesta Bowl bid, Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III -- who is a classic underdog story if there ever was one -- won the 2014 Bronko Nagurski Trophy on Monday night.  The annual award is given to the top defensive player in the country by the Football Writers Association of America.

"I am just excited for Scooby," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Mainly because he epitomizes what are program is about. He has a chip on his shoulder. He loves the game and is a good teammate."

Wright has gone from a two-star rated high school player recruited by only a few schools to a tackling machine at Arizona (10-3).  The Wildcats are ranked 10th in the final College Football Playoff rankings.

The modest Wright, whose real name is Phillip, was also recruited by Boise State, California, Washington and USC, but never was offered a scholarship by any of those schools. Only Arizona did.

"I say thank you all to my teammates and coaches," Wright said. "Football is a team game. I accept this on behalf of the Arizona football program."

Wright, a 6-1, 246-pound sophomore, becomes the second Arizona player to win the award after the inaugural winner Rob Waldrop in 1993, and the first Pac-12 player to claim it since Terrell Suggs of Arizona State in 2002. Wright is just the second sophomore to win the award, joining Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis, the 2006 winner.

The four other Nagurski finalists in attendance were Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown, Alabama safety Landon Collins, Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson, and Louisville safety Gerod Holliman. Alabama head coach Nick Saban gave the evening's keynote address.

Wright has been an active and disruptive force all season, ranking in the top five among FBS players for total tackles (153), tackles for loss (28.0), sacks (14.0), and forced fumbles (six). He's the only FBS player to rank in the top 25 of each of those categories this season.

"One of the reasons his numbers are so high for tackles, assists or turnovers is because of his effort," Rodriguez said. "He strains until the nth degree. You want everybody to do that. But it comes to Scooby naturally. He plays with a sense of urgency on every snap."

Wright is trying to become the first player since 1999 to be ranked in the top five for tackles, tackles for loss and sacks at the end of a season.

Wright, who hails from Windsor, California, led the Pac-12 in five defensive statistical categories: Total tackles (153), tackles per game (11.77), tackles for loss (28), tackles for loss per game (2.15) and forced fumbles (6).

Former Dallas Cowboys legend and defensive lineman Randy White, also accepted the the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award. Each year, the FWAA honors a past winner from one its All-America teams. White was a defensive star at Maryland and a member of the 1974 FWAA All-America Team.

The FWAA's national defensive player of the year award, given out since 1993, is named after the legendary Bronko Nagurski, who dominated college football at Minnesota as a bruising fullback and defensive tackle from 1927 through 1929. He could have been an All-American at any position and was the best player wherever the coaches put him.

Nagurski led Minnesota to the Big Ten title in 1927 and a three-year record of 18-4-2. He went on to lead the fabled Chicago Bears to three NFL titles. During one game at Wrigley Field, he once broke a defensive player's shoulder, knocked another out, and ran into a brick wall and actually cracked it during a game-winning touchdown run.

By Staff of and news services

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