By Mike Christensen
The cleats Jordan Wright wore when he tied the Mississippi high school record for touchdowns in a game haven’t been on his feet since that September night.
“They’re in my locker now,” the Pearl High School senior running back said recently. “I’ll probably put them in a case some day.”
While the shoes have gone into retirement, Wright has gone back to work. And the workload has been heavy.
In three games since he rushed for the record-tying nine touchdowns against Bastrop (La.), a game in which he carried 44 times for 422 yards, Wright has toted the ball 76 times for 666 yards and scored 11 more touchdowns.
As if on a mission — and perhaps he is — the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Wright has demonstrated resiliency, toughness and big-play ability this season.
Through eight games, Wright has gained 1,683 yards on 210 carries. That’s more than 26 carries per game. Only once has been held under 100 yards. He is averaging 8.0 yards per carry and has scoring runs of 70, 48 and 44 (twice) yards. He has 26 rushing touchdowns, plus a receiving TD.
Even with opposing defenses stacked against him, Wright has been an unstoppable force for the Pirates.
“Ain’t no doubt about that,” said Pearl coach John Perry, whose team has won five straight games after an 0-3 start. “He’s a good one. He carries the load.
“I’m just curious about when the recruiting is going to take off. When a kid is in the top 10 in the country in rushing and in the top 10 in the country in scoring, he ought to be getting a lot of attention.”
Wright said that before the night of Sept. 19, he had no idea what the state record for touchdowns was and had never heard of Randy Bell.
For those who don’t know, Bell scored nine touchdowns in a game for now-defunct Maben High School back in 1998 — and he didn’t stop there. He was a junior college All-Star and team MVP at East Mississippi Community College and started for two years at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn.
Bell signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns in 2003 but didn’t make the team and has bounced around a variety of pro leagues ever since. He played for the Colorado Ice of the Indoor Football League last spring but was released after the season. Team officials did not know how to reach him.
Bell and Wright will be linked together in the state record book for what figures to be a long time. Only one other player has scored as many as eight touchdowns in the 16-year span between the mark set by Bell and Wright.
Wright said he is still amazed that he scored nine.
“I was in game mode that night,” he said. “I was prepared for a tough game. We were trying to get a win, trying to get back on the winning track. I knew we were scoring some points, but I didn’t even realize what I had until halftime.
“Somebody said, ‘Man, you got five touchdowns.’ I had no idea.”
Wright said he went to the locker room and stretched and chugged Gatorade.
“I felt good, but I didn’t want take a chance on cramping up,” he said. “It was still a tight game. I never had a chance to stop and think about the touchdowns because (Bastrop) kept scoring, too. We had to keep playing to the end.”
The Pirates won 69-54. It was on the post-game bus ride back to Mississippi when Perry announced to the team that Wright had tied the state record with his nine trips into the end zone.
“I got on Twitter and it was blowing up with stuff about the record,” Wright said. “It’s still amazing.”
As every savvy running back does, Wright gives a nod to his offensive line as a big part of the scoring record and the other big numbers he has racked up.
“We started kinda slow this year, to be honest,” he said, “but we’ve picked it up. We’re jelling now. Those guys up front have done a great job. I tell ’em, ‘Stay on your blocks and I’ll deliver.’
“We don’t get denied on the goal line. I appreciate what those guys do.”
As for his own contributions, Wright said he has improved his ability to get to the holes and is proud of the yards he gets after first contact.
“I think the best thing I have going for me is my vision,” he said. “I’m able to see the holes open up.”
He can’t see the future, of course, but it would appear to be bright. “He’s an SEC back,” Perry said. “We just need to find the right place for him … and we will.” –