Wright uses Hawaiian vacation to impress NFL scouts (Football)

Tania Ganguli

After practicing in Maui, Hawaii, during the week leading up to Saturday’s Hula Bowl, Jason Wright summarized his experience in one sentence.

“It was a business trip in paradise,” he said.

Playing for the Aina team under Ohio State coach Jim Tressell, Wright and Iowa running back Fred Russell led their squad to a 26-7 victory over the Kai team.

The Hula Bowl gives about 100 of the nation’s best collegiate players a chance to show off for NFL scouts. Wright said receiving an invitation to the competition, always held in Maui, was a great honor.

Although the former NU running back said he loved spending a week in 85-degree weather, he kept his mind focused on his real objective — impressing pro scouts. And that work was over by Thursday since the scouts didn’t stay for the game.

Wright has another opportunity to show the scouts what he can do: the NFL Combine at the end of February.

The Combine is run by all 32 professional football teams and two scouting organizations. Players train in front of coaches, general managers and owners.

During the week before the Hula Bowl, the players spent time practicing, while scouts checked out their moves.

In their free time, the athletes headed to Maui’s beaches and were treated to free massages.

Some players participated in a surfing contest, but Wright stayed away from activities that might injure him and keep him from performing well in front of scouts.

“I’m not one of those guys that have such a solid status that I can take those opportunities lightly,” Wright said.

Still, Wright said he enjoyed the time he spent getting to know his teammates for the week — both on the field and on the beaches.

“There were some really cool guys,” Wright said. “I liked hanging out with the offensive line, and they liked blocking for me.

“Me and Fred Russell had a great time playing together in the backfield.”

Their camaraderie carried over to the game — Russell and Wright were the leading rushers for Aina. Russell had 101 yards on his way to a Hula Bowl offensive MVP award, and Wright ran for 43.

Now, he’s ready to continue proving what he can do.

“Basically my whole life’s dedicated to training in the NFL Combine,” Wright said. “It’s just a few more weeks. I can do it.”

In an effort to get his mind and body ready, Wright is talking over his future plans with his agent and spending time working out with NU strength and conditioning coach Larry Lilja.

“It’s really such an exciting time,” Wright said. “I’m just saying a lot of prayers, and it’s just crazy that I’m this close to realizing my dream.”