See the armbands, taped fingertips and high white socks.
See the good hands, toughness, elusiveness and acceleration, a little guy capable of turning every play into a big play.
See Rodney Wright III and there’s no mistaking he’s the son of the Fresno State football great.
“Almost identical,” Pops says with a smile while comparing their styles, appearances and talents after a Clovis West High football practice this week.
Never miss a local story.
Rodney Wright II in comparing his skills as a former wide receiver with those of his son, Clovis West’s Rodney Wright III
The only difference is the-now Golden Eagles assistant wore jersey No. 17 as a Bulldog from 1998-2001. Flashing those armbands, taped fingertips and white socks (elevated even higher than his son wears his today), Rodney Wright II caught 211 passes, according to sports-reference.com.
His last season in 2001 was phenomenal: a nation-leading 104 catches in a virtual playground partnership with quarterback David Carr, including a 13-reception, 299-yard, two-touchdown performance to close that season against Michigan State in the Silicon Valley Football Classic.
Friday night at Central High’s Koligian Stadium, the younger Wright – who is a running back but is also active in the receiving game – may need to deliver similar numbers in harmony with Fresno State-courted quarterback Adrian Martinez for the Central Section’s third-ranked Clovis West (6-2) to have a chance against No. 1 Central (7-1) in a duel of Tri-River Athletic Conference teams that are 3-0 in league.
“Man, they’re fast,” Eagles coach George Petrissans said of the Grizzlies. “They are super athletic fast, the fastest defense we’ll have faced this year.”
At 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, Wright will be the smallest player on the field, yet unfazed: “I think we have the matchup. I think we’ll get them.”
That’s part of the “swag,” son says, that he notices when watching similar-sized Pops on film. And he still does on occasion.
“It’s cool to watch him.”
Are you better than Dad?
32 Combined total percentage of rushes and receptions in Clovis West’s offense that Rodney Wright III has compiled
Wright has accounted for 32 percent of the Eagles’ offensive touches with 84 rushes and 40 receptions. He has accounted for 848 yards and six touchdowns.
Dad, who starred at South and Bakersfield before being recruited early in Pat Hill’s Fresno State career, makes a comparision: “Rod is faster than me at this stage. They train better; they’re stronger. I didn’t get in the gym until my senior year. These kids are stronger and a lot more explosive.”
The former NFL practice squad member for the 49ers, Bills and Chiefs and longtime Arena Football League player does allow the similarities of gifts in a game that also points to receiver for his 16-year-old son in college: “He’s still young and there’s a whole lot more development that’s going to happen. But there’s a natural way he catches the ball and a certain aggression to his routes and, as a little guy, you’ve got to have that. I watched him run a route this week, he bursted and made a grunting noise. A lot of receivers don’t do that, but I did.
“I honestly believe he has a college future. You don’t always have to be one of the biggest guys. Coaches want guys who make plays and I think there will be a definite place for Rod at the D-I level.”
Rodney Wright II says memories of his high school days helped steer him to Clovis West: He was a junior on a South team that was crushed 41-6 by Clovis West for the 1995 Yosemite Division title at Lamonica Stadium.
Now he’s raising his family in the Eagles’ district. A daughter, Alexandria, is a three-sport standout at the district’s middle school feeder, Kastner.
“Back home, at Bakersfield, it was always, Clovis West, Clovis West, Clovis West, a storied program,” he says. “I liked how the (Clovis Unified) kids stay together through elementary school and junior high, and I wanted my son to be a part of that, not only competing in the highest level of academics, but in sports, as well.”
Petrissans brought up Wright as a sophomore wide receiver before expanding his role this season: “We move him all over the place – tailback, slot right, slot left. We have him do all kinds of stuff because he’s a dynamic player.”
Never had the coach brought on a father as an assistant before doing so last year with Wright II, who’s a sales representative for Valley Wide Beverage Co.
“And I didn’t do it without reservation,” Petrissans says. “And I never had because of the obvious complication. But we talked through the scenarios, knowing there would be some sensitive times when coaches were frustrated with his son, and he convinced me he could do it. We’ve had not one problem; it’s been tremendous, and that can’t always be said for that type of relationship.”
Coaching wide receivers, the father is no longer his son’s position coach. Not to suggest he isn’t paying attention to No. 1, and that goes far beyond the jersey number.
“My eyes are always on him in practice,” he says. “He hears me, but I really don’t have to say much to him because of the way the coaching staff is set up. Because of that, I can sit back and watch, and that’s cool. It’s worked out great.”