DECATUR — Imagine going to a grocery store, finishing up your meal at a restaurant or getting gas, all while being one of the most well-known high school seniors in your hometown.
Welcome to the life of St. Teresa running back Jacardia Wright.
Wherever Wright stepped in Decatur, questions and comments followed: "Where, or when, are you committing?" "You should consider going to (insert name of any school to have extended Wright a scholarship offer)."
Those questions and that attention comes when you're a 6-foot, 200-pound walking touchdown machine who accumulated 2,609 rushing yards on 219 carries — yes, 11.9 yards per rush — and 55 total touchdowns while holding a handful of Division I football offers including to the likes of Iowa and Purdue.
It's all part of what Jacardia Wrght's life has been like for the last three seasons, capping off his senior year with his third consecutive Herald & Review Macon County Football Player of the Year — only the second player in history to win three straight years, joining Maroa-Forsyth graduate Jack Hockaday.
Sometimes those questions can get tiresome, but get to know Wright, he'll sit down and answer each and every question.
“Of course it gets old," he said, "but everybody is interested in where I want to go. Some people actually really care about where I want to go. I’m going to give you the time of day. I’m going to talk to you about it. I can’t be mean about it and say that I don’t really want to talk about it."
Attention started his sophomore season, and really, as early as his freshman season at St. Teresa. Wright knows the impact he has on younger players in Decatur, and he and Stanley Rodgers, his best friend, are the talkative kind. If a kid has a question, or wants to pose for a picture after a game, Wright is there. There was even a picture surfacing on Twitter after a postseason win of Wright and the son of an opposing coach.
“It’s very awesome when a kid can come up to me and say they look up to me," Wright said. "I feel great about it. That’s why I always keep myself close to them and make sure I answer them when they’re talking because that can go a long way."
But Wright didn't get to this point without growing up a bit. It feels like just yesterday that he was in junior high and dreaming about wearing St. Teresa blue, thinking about the records he would run through, leap over, spin past or simply out-run in the ensuing four seasons — and run, leap and spin he did.
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He's second all time in IHSA history with 8,821 career rushing yards, he has 10,745 total all-purpose yards and is second in state history with 150 career touchdowns.
Even with all that, Wright knew he couldn't enter the season keeping things status quo. Suddenly, despite being looked up to for four seasons, he was a senior on a team that had state championship aspirations.
“The thing is it’s always been people legitimately looking up to me," Wright said. "It’s always been a wake up call to me to be that guy. High school goes by fast. All I remember, I was just in eighth grade. Now I’m a senior leader and everybody is looking up to me around Decatur from playing football. It’s a lot on me, but I take it the right way."
There may have been some pressure weighing down on Wright in the summer to make a verbal commitment. Instead, he stood pat and turned all of his focus to his final St. Teresa season. He came in with goals, a state championship, of course, but he also had smaller landmarks to reach.
He wanted to beat Tuscola for the first time in his career, and turned in a seven-touchdown performance to do so. He felt like the Bulldogs were underdogs against Athens in the playoffs, and he powered the team to a second-round playoff win before the Bulldogs lost to Maroa-Forsyth in the Class 2A state semifinals.
But there was something different about Wright than can be traced all the way back to before the season. It was the little moments in the weight room when he mentored young players, or always had a voice in freshman standout, and heir apparent, Denim Cook's ear. His responsibilities extended off of the football field.
“He was voted a captain," St. Teresa coach Mark Ramsey said. "We’d met a few times about what the expectations of a captain are. I think he took that to heart. For the most part, I thought he was a really good leader out there. I thought he was sprinting from drill to drill and trying to be a leader by example and not just what he was saying."
The football skills remained intact, and Wright added mass and speed in each of his seasons. At times, amazed himself. But he quickly went home and fired up film after a big run to see how, exactly, he crushed a defense on any given play.
“There were some runs where I’d get hit and my body would be in the air and I’d land and keep running," Wright recalled. "I had a fat lineman on my back. I don’t know how I broke the tackle. I ended up going all the way for a touchdown."
In all reality, the numbers could have been bigger. The Bulldogs were an unstoppable force in the regular season, often times allowing the starters to catch a spot on the sideline in the second half for the reserves to get playing time. Ramsey had to do some managing in those first halves. Yes, Wright could have broke free at will, but Ramsey and his coaching staff wanted other players to get into a rhythm.
“You always felt like you were one play away from him breaking one of those touchdown runs where he broke a tackle here and made a guy miss there or made a cutback here," Ramsey said. "We tried to spread the ball around because we knew there were going to be a lot of games where we knew we weren’t going to be able to run much offense in the second half. That really held true."
What also holds true was that Wright may not know every person who stops him in the checkout line, but he won't run away from the opportunity to engage in any conversation.
Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25