By Parker Cotton
Jacob Wright looked across the line of scrimmage last week against Maryville and saw old teammates.
On the opposite sideline he saw old coaches.
In his own huddle, he saw family.
After spending two seasons at Maryville from 2015-16, Wright left the team in search of a new football home. He enrolled at a community college in his hometown of Tallahassee, Florida, in 2017, and he found his way in spring 2018 to Averett, where he has been the starting quarterback ever since.
His two touchdown passes and Averett’s 31-13 win against the Scots on Saturday were especially sweet considering the Cougars’ 14-0 loss in Wright’s first start against his old team in 2018.
“It was good to see the guys and the old coaches. We don’t have any bad blood,” Wright said. “It was fun to go out there and play, especially with the result we had last year. I didn’t want to make it about me, but it was nice to get a win.”
After playing sparingly during his two seasons at Maryville, Wright decided he needed a change. During his search, he emailed his high school film and whatever clips he had of his brief time for the Scots to Averett head coach Cleive Adams and then-offensive coordinator Shannon Johnson. Wright didn’t know it then, but he was becoming available at just the right time.
“It was basically an answered prayer,” Adams said this week. “At that time in our program, we had several journeyman quarterbacks in the system, and we didn’t have what we call in the coaching business a difference-maker at quarterback. We were coming into that 2018 campaign trying to figure out who was going to lead the charge.”
Wright arrived in the spring of that year and immediately impressed.
“He was as advertised,” Adams said. “After the first couple days of spring practice, we knew we had something special.”
In Wright’s first season, he was responsible for 21 total touchdowns (15 passing, six rushing), which tied the program record for a season, and he helped the Cougars go 8-2, the most wins in school history.
As a senior this year, he’s already passed for 21 touchdowns and run for six more with two games still to play. Combined, his 48 career touchdowns stand as the school record.
“There are a lot of guys out there that can throw and run, but what separates him is that his football IQ is out of the roof,” Adams said. “You can put a lot on him to get us in the right position and put the pieces in the right place.”
Wright’s development as a quarterback began when he gravitated toward the position as a kid. After learning how to run an offense, he said, one has to learn how to lead a team.
“In flag, you’re just out there running around trying to make a play. When you get in JV high school is when you learn the position, really,” he said. “You’ve got to be to a leader and influence your team if you really want to be a good quarterback.”
He’s never been much of a vocal leader, but his effort and style of play are indicative of his drive. On numerous occasions this season, Wright has scrambled for a first down by diving head-first toward the marker — usually a no-no for quarterbacks.
“Jake definitely is a risk-taker,” sophomore receiver Chase Nixon said. “He’s gonna lay it all out there. His best trait and worst trait is he always wants to make a play, and he’s going to do anything it takes to make a play.”
Reckless as he may sometimes appear, he is still very careful with the ball. As a junior, he threw only three interceptions and completed 57.6% of his passes, the sixth-best mark for a season in school history. This year, he’s been picked off four times, but he’s completing 65.9% of his passes, which would be second.
“Jake is a different type of dude,” Nixon said. “I’m not sure if he realizes it at times, but his skill set and his capabilities are unbelievable.”
Once Wright graduates, he said he’d like to play football professionally in Europe or Canada just for the experience. If he can’t find a landing spot for football, he’ll plan on putting his finance and accounting degree to good use — hopefully doing something with investments.
The return on Averett’s decision to bring in the soft-spoken quarterback has been evident during the past two seasons. The Cougars are 6-2 this season heading into Saturday’s road matchup with Brevard. If they win there and at home on Nov. 16 against Methodist, Averett would match its program-best record from last year.
For the final two games of the season, the Cougars can rest assured their quarterback’s competitiveness will be on display as it always has been.
“He’s an unbelievable competitor,” Adams said. “He’s very calculated. He’s very reserved. He takes it all in, but the thing that brings him out of his shell is competition.”
Parker Cotton is a sports reporter at the Martinsville Bulletin and Danville Register & Bee. You can reach him at (276) 638-8801 ext. 215. Follow @ByParkerCotton.