Buffalo Bills nose tackle Jeff Wright was not only a standout football player at Lawrence High.
"A lot of people forget Jeff was a state champion shot putter his senior year," said Ottawa High football coach Ron Mann. "Jeff won state with a sprained ankle. He threw 57 feet."
Mann coached Wright, a Lion football lineman and track weightman, in 1981, Wright's senior year at LHS. Mann spent 12 years on the LHS staff.
Wright, 27, is making headlines in football. He'll be starting in the Super Bowl a week from Sunday in Minneapolis.
MANN, WHO last visited with Wright two years ago, calls him, "the finest offensive and defensive lineman I ever coached. You look at him back then. He was 6-3, 215. He was not big, but not skinny, either. He had the kind of intensity you like to see."
Mann remembers the first time he saw the bigger, stronger version of Wright.
It was just before Wright's senior year at Central Missouri State. Voted the MIAA's most outstanding performer two years in a row, Wright visited with Mann at a CMSU track meet.
"When I saw him in Warrensburg, he had on a T-shirt he made into a tank top so he could fit into it. He was so big he could have balanced a can of Coke on his chest," said Mann. "I saw him and thought, `Who is this monster walking up to me?'"
At the time, Wright weighed 295 pounds. Now he's carrying 280 pounds on his frame.
Oddly, no major colleges recruited Wright out of high school, except Tulsa, which signed Wright after the 1981 Shrine Bowl game.
"I THOUGHT he'd get bigger, but you never know," Mann said. "I coached him in the Big Brothers (all-star) game in Kansas City. He kind of dominated and I thought he probably deserved to be recruited, but who's to say how big a guy is going to get?"
Long-time LHS assistant Ron Commons also remembers working with Wright.
"Since he's been playing so well and so many nice things have been said about him by commentators, a lot of us have been talking about Jeff," Commons said. "I remember as a junior on the JV team, he was pretty quiet and had an awful lot of desire.
"He didn't play much (varsity) as a junior. As a senior he did so many nice things. We were disappointed he wasn't recruited by other major colleges. But it didn't happen because he was 6-2 and barely 200. We just knew he had an awful lot of desire. I'm really happy he's had this kind of success."