Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsUsc

USC's Shareece Wright steps up game, leadership

The fifth-year senior cornerback overcomes setbacks to be an outstanding player for the Trojans and an example to younger teammates.

October 26, 2010|By Gary Klein

Shareece Wright couldn't watch anymore.

Sitting at home last Halloween night, ineligible to play, the USC cornerback turned away from the television as Oregon decimated the Trojans' defense.

Six months later, Wright again couldn't watch.

The NFL draft was unfolding and, having decided to return for a fifth season at USC, he was not a part of it. One cornerback was taken, then another, until five were selected in the first round.

Three weeks ago, after USC's defense broke down and gave up a second consecutive game-winning field goal, Wright wanted to shield his eyes yet again.

Instead, he looked inward.

Wright, a team captain, asked coaches if he could speak during a mid-week team meeting.

His unexpected speech, coaches and teammates say, put the Trojans on course for their best performance of the season, a rout of California that the Trojans hope was a turning point going into Saturday night's game against top-ranked Oregon at the Coliseum.

Coming near the end of a career that has included several major setbacks, Wright's quiet but stirring directive to take individual responsibility and play collectively resonated.

"You can hear his passion in his words," sophomore safety T.J. McDonald said.

Wright has had his own resolve tested many times during his years at USC.

In 2008, after two seasons as a reserve, the former Colton High star moved into the starting lineup. But two weeks into the season, he was charged with felony resisting a police officer in connection with a party he attended at a friend's house. Wright later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace.

The next week, Wright suffered a fractured vertebra in his neck against Ohio State. He was sidelined the rest of the season as a redshirt.

Last year, most of Wright's season ended before it began when he was declared academically ineligible. He returned for the Emerald Bowl, intercepting the only pass of his career in a victory over Boston College, but the Trojans' disappointing season and former coach Pete Carroll's departure to the NFL's Seattle Seahawks fueled Wright's own thoughts of turning pro.

A meeting in Carroll's office immediately after the coach's farewell news conference at USC in January changed his mind.

"Coach Carroll told me, 'You can come back and invest in yourself for the next eight months and be a leader, do everything right from this point on and put yourself in a better position,' " Wright said. "He said, 'If you think you're a first- or second-round guy, be that.' "

After the NCAA slapped USC with a two-year bowl ban in June, Wright declined offers from other schools to take advantage of an exemption that allowed juniors and seniors to transfer without penalty.

"I was disappointed in LeBron James leaving his team," Wright said. "What kind of guy would I be, leaving a team that needs me so much?"

Opponents have mostly stayed away from testing the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Wright, preferring instead to go after freshman cornerback Nickell Robey and others in the Trojans' young secondary.

Wright has no interceptions, but he quietly brimmed with pride when McDonald got his team-leading third against Cal.

Late that night, Wright received a text message from McDonald, thanking him for the speech that inspired the team earlier in the week.

"I felt like that shouldn't go unnoticed," McDonald said. "I told him it was a pleasure to play with him."

The gesture moved Wright.

"That's how I want to be remembered," he said. "Not only as a good football player, but a good person."

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|