By BEN JOHNSON
He was almost positive that he’d have to give up sports. Playing football and rejoining the wrestling team would be unobtainable aspirations.
That’s how Colton Wright saw things after basically shredding his left knee during his sophomore year of high school.
“After the first surgery, the doctor told me that in 10 months I would be stronger than I ever was,” Wright said. “[Then] five months after the first surgery, I found myself scheduling another [surgery], still on crutches and no progress made.”
Wright then had another surgery, which removed his anterior cruciate ligament. That led to a third and final surgery.
But Wright wasn’t optimistic about playing football at that point.
“I thought it was too late for sports,” Wright said.
Turns out, he was wrong.
Wright missed out on his junior season on Tahlequah’s football team, but he returned for his senior campaign. And not a moment too soon.
Wright, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker, logged 124 tackles and an interception in 2013, while making himself a potential target among college football coaches.
On Wednesday, Southwestern Oklahoma State head coach Dan Cocannouer landed Wright, who signed his letter of intent despite Tahlequah postponing its signing ceremony due to recent inclement weather.
Yet, the postponement of the festivities and the frosty weather outside couldn’t dampen Wright’s spirits.
“It feels great knowing I signed to play football at the next level,” Wright said, “but that also means I have a lot of work to put in, in the future. It doesn’t stop here. I plan to be an All-American linebacker for the Bulldogs, and I’m going to give it everything to get to that point.”
Weatherford may be four hours west of Tahlequah, but Wright said it felt like a place where he belonged.
“I decided on SWOSU, because when I visited the campus I felt at home,” said Wright, whose Tigers finished 1-9 overall and 1-6 in District 5A-4 play in 2013. “Everyone was friendly and I had an instant bond with the football players. The team chemistry is like a brotherhood there and I wanted to be apart of it.”
Wright also identified Southwestern Oklahoma State assistant coach Austin Smithey as a key component during the recruiting period. But there was something else that sparked Wright’s interest.
“The 2 things that really stood out too me were the coaching staff and the facilities,” Wright said. “The coaches were there for every question that needed to be answered, and you could tell by talking to them that they were straight up with you and also sincere.
“The entire campus was refurbished or brand new with the exception of like two buildings. The campus was incredible and they also have a brand new multipurpose event center that really caught my eye. And my parents loved it, so that was a plus.”
As for doling out credit for his impending college career and his recovery from a gruesome leg injury, Wright pointed to a high power.
“The big man upstairs has definitely had my back through out the process,” Wright said. “He gave me the strength and mindset to push away any pain that I had and help me to this point. God does work miracles. I couldn’t have done any of this without him. He definitely came through huge for me.”