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Jaydon Wright’s 8-TD performance proof of DI talent

Jaydon Wright’s 8-TD performance proof of DI talent
Jaydon Wright has become the star of Bishop McNamara's backfield over the past three seasons. (Courtesy: Bishop McNamara Athletics)

KANKAKEE, Ill. (BVM) – There have been plenty of strong individual performances across high school football in Illinois this fall. However, Jaydon Wright’s game on Sept. 30 may just take the cake.

Playing on the road against Aurora Central Catholic, the Bishop McNamara junior running back helped lead the charge in a 58-19 victory that helped lead the Fightin’ Irish to a 3-3 record. In the contest, Wright posted single-game program records with an incredible 447 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. The previous rushing record was 392 yards set in 1992 by Tyrone Noble, and Wright’s eight touchdowns bested the record of seven which was posted by his cousin — current NFL player Jonathan Ward — in 2015.

“It was a very special moment, I cried a little bit,” Wright said. “I think when we first started off, we were going good. Everyone was on point, all 11 people were making blocks and making plays. I had three touchdowns, and my line, they literally told me, ‘We are going to do whatever, so you can get this record.’ They went out there and they helped me so much. The defense did the same thing. We all together just had a great game.”

For his incredible performance, Wright was recognized by the Chicago Bears as the High School All-Star of the week.

“It meant a lot to me,” Wright said. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing, I would say. I work very hard and there are so many players in the state that play on Friday nights and it meant a lot for them to nominate me out of all the other kids … It was just a great feeling. I instantly called my mom and my uncle and shared the news.”

For Wright, a night like that was a long time in the making. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound running back started playing football at just 3 years old, and although he tried his hand at a few other sports, football has always been at the top. Playing with the Kankakee Colts, Wright fell in love with the gridiron almost immediately.

“It was my second year, and they end up putting me at running back,” Wright said. “Me as a little kid, I had a lot of energy, so I was able to run around, never tired. As soon as they put me back there and gave me the ball, I fell in love with it because it came so natural and easy to me. It just got passed down through genetics … I started getting into football because it just runs in my family.”

Jaydon Wright Bishop McNamara football Chicago Bears High School All-Star
Jaydon Wright was recognized by the Chicago Bears for his record-setting performance against Aurora Central Catholic. (Courtesy: @JaydonWright_/Twitter)

Football is something that has long been a part of the Wright family. Numerous family members have been involved with the sport through the years, whether that be at the high school, college or NFL level as a player, coach or scout. Most also got their start at Bishop McNamara, and the No. 22 has been passed down through the generations with Wright now having the opportunity to don it as he continues his family’s legacy.

“I thank them for even putting me in this position to keep the family legacy going,” Wright said. “I’m most definitely going to try my best to keep it and make it the farthest.”

With some in his family already getting a taste of the NFL, that has become Wright’s ultimate football goal. One running back Wright likes to compare himself to is Bo Jackson, and to star in the pros as he did someday would be the ultimate accomplishment.

“It would be a great dream come true,” Wright said. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid. Ever since I started playing football, I was like, ‘I gotta make it, I’m going to make it.’ I’m going to do whatever. I know it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, and a lot of working and doing everything when all the eyes aren’t on you … I just can’t wait for that moment.” 

During his youth career, Wright won junior football championships while also getting a feeling of what it could be like to be in the NFL someday as he got to play at Soldier Field multiple times. 

The passion he gained for football has only continued while at Bishop McNamara, as Wright became an important piece of the Fightin’ Irish’s varsity squad as just a freshman. However, with Covid creating plenty of uncertainty and eventually forcing the 2020 season to a condensed six-game spring schedule, Wright’s first high school season was anything but ordinary.

“It was very hard and it was kind of a mental battle,” Wright explained. “I got so used to it, I never went a year without playing football. The feeling that I wasn’t going to have a season upset me. But we ended up having a season, and I want to thank all the seniors and juniors that year for helping me get through it and teaching me up.”

Jaydon Wright Bishop McNamara football Illinois
Jaydon Wright proved his talent as just a freshman, rushing for over 400 yards in six games with the Fightin’ Irish. (Courtesy: Bishop McNamara Athletics)

Rushing for over 400 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman, Wright returned as a sophomore and posted another solid season, also becoming a key contributor at linebacker for the Fightin’ Irish.

“I actually love playing both sides of the ball,” Wright said. “My sophomore year, I definitely developed way more than I did my freshman year. My freshman year, it was kind of like testing your toes in the water. I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous. But sophomore year, I was like these are the same kids I played last year, there’s nothing new, just go out there and do your job and execute it. I was really just trying to do anything I could to help my seniors out because I know the year before that, they really didn’t get a season.”

Part of what made Wright’s first two seasons at Bishop McNamara so special was sharing the backfield with one of his best friends, Tony Phillips. A three-star running back who holds multiple Division I college offers like Wright does, Phillips ran for over 1,300 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2021 as he and Wright formed a dynamic duo in the backfield. Although Phillips transferred to Kankakee High School for 2022, the bond remains close between the two star running backs.

“Tony is like my brother,” Wright said. “We’d been sharing a backfield for four years straight. It was just an amazing feeling because I knew he got my back, I got his back. We have a very strong relationship. He always still comes over, we still call each other and everything. We still help each other with film and still push each other to our limits to help each other get better.”

Coming into 2022, the stage was set for Wright to have a special season as one of the top-ranked backs in Illinois, and he has done just that. While his Bishop McNamara team was been up and down at times with a young roster that included just a handful of seniors and a new coaching staff, the Fightin’ Irish battled throughout the season, instilling a team culture that will carry over into next year.

“I’m trying my best, and everybody is trying their best, to help everybody succeed and lead everybody in the right way,” Wright said.

By his senior season, Wright will look to improve on his 2022 numbers, make a deep postseason run, and also leave a lasting impact in his final year at Bishop McNamara.

“I hope I leave a huge impact to running backs and just all the kids, that, if you are going to do something, you can make it happen,” Wright said. “I hope to break my records again and probably make an even better run next year.”

Jaydon Wright Bishop McNamara high school football Illinois
In addition to playing running back, Jaydon Wright has also become a key member of Bishop McNamara’s defense. (Courtesy: Jaydon Wright)

While Wright hopes to win a state championship by the time his football career at Bishop McNamara is said and done, he would also like to add to his athletic resume with a state title in track. Wright competes in the 100-meter and 200-meter events individually, and the 4×100-meter and 4×200-meter relay events. Like in football, he is focused on doing whatever it takes to succeed.

“I really look forward to going back down to state and getting another chance to try and win a state title,” Wright mentioned.

However, by the time Wright gets to college in a few years, his main focus will again become football. Currently, the junior holds a bevy of DI offers, anywhere from Mid-American Conference schools like Miami (OH) and Toledo, to Big Ten programs such as Purdue and Minnesota. Currently, it is the latter two programs which he has some of the highest interest in, and Wright plans to visit Minnesota once again on game day next month.

“I’m thinking about making a decision very soon,” Wright said. “I would probably say in the next couple of months. I have a few programs that stuck out to me. I would say Tennessee, Purdue, Minnesota, Wisconsin, they all had great energy. I loved the players there and I loved the coaches there.

“I really loved Minnesota. Coach P.J. Fleck, he showed me a great time when I was there. I’m actually going back there Nov. 19 for a visit. I just can’t wait to go back there and see what it’s like on game day.”

Perhaps giving the Golden Gophers a leg up when it comes to landing Wright is the fact that his cousin, senior wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell, has shined at Minnesota over the past few seasons.

Jaydon Wright Bishop McNamara high school football Illinois P.J. Fleck Minnesota Golden Gophers
Multiple Big Ten schools such as Minnesota have shown interest in Jaydon Wright over the past year. (Courtesy: @JaydonWright_/Twitter)

In addition to football, Wright is also focused on finding a school with good academics, and somewhere that will allow him to build his character over the next four years, on and off the field.

No matter where Wright ends up, he is poised for success. A versatile running back with good vision who can do it all whether it’s running, blocking or receiving, Wright looks the part every time he takes the field. His career at Bishop McNamara has already proved strong, but what lies beyond could be even better.

“I would definitely love to be an All-American,” Wright said. “That is a huge goal of mine. I most definitely want to be a rushing leader in the nation. And I really just want to win a bowl game, and have a great college experience that will help prepare me for the NFL, the big leagues.”