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Oregon Football

Q&A: George Wrighster III

April 8, 2020

With no sports to keep us busy, it’s a great time to revisit some of the Ducks who helped put this program on the map.

Tight end George Wrighster helped push Oregon to greatness in the early 2000’s before spending some time in the NFL. Injuries seemed to have cut that time short but he’s since done a lot of work in the media space at a number of stops. 

Wrighster spends his days with his wife and family and working on his webiste and show. 

We caught up with the former Duck and NFL’er to hear a bit more about his story. 

Hello, George. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. How have you been? What keeps you busy nowadays? 

GW: Hello, Chris. I have been doing well. Family is good, Ducks are back on top -- I can’t complain; I am super-happy. Busy with family, my Unafraid website  some other business dealings, and the Fox Sports radio show I do 

What was your recruitment like? Which Duck coach(es) was your main recruiter? 

GW: The recruiting process for me was crazy. I really didn’t start playing football until I was a sophomore in high school. I went to a small private school where we played 8-man football, then I transferred to Sylmar High School; they were known as a football powerhouse in the San Fernando Valley just outside of Los Angeles. We played the L.A. schools and the Valley; they were known to win city championships. 

I was mainly there to play basketball, but I decided to play football. Things just kind of took off from there. I had a fantastic junior year, was invited to a Nike Elite Camps up at Stanford, think I won MVP there? Anyways, after the camp everything exploded, started getting letters. 

Washington University in St. Louis reached out to me; I was like, where is this school at? After the camp I got my first big time offer; it was from Rick Neuheisel, who was at Colorado right before he took the Washington job. It was crazy. It came on this black post card written in gold leaf print; it was super exciting. 

I really didn’t know what was going on; I had only just started playing football. It was all coming at me super-fast, and my dad, thank God, he handled a lot of it guiding and steering me through it even though it was his first time going through the process. 

The main Duck coaches that recruited me were coach (Tom Osbourne) and coach (Gary) Campbell. They did a great job because I had just busted onto the scene, and I had hopes and dreams. My dream school was Florida State, but then during the recruiting process I realized that was just a little too far away from home. 

Coach Oz and Campbell keep trying to get me to take this information home that they had sent me; I would not take it home. Then they finally got ahold of my parents, and my dad said, “Look George, you are not going to be able to drive the car unless you get that paperwork home.” So, I brought it home the next day.  

I really didn’t take my recruiting trips in the traditional way. I was playing basketball, and no way was I going to miss a game to go on a recruiting trip, period. So, they ended up being spread over the season of both basketball and football. 

After I brought the information home, they had broken down my top 5 schools, the recruits that the school had brought in, and how many catches the players at my position had. I was like, “That’s not good; I want to catch the ball, and score points.” Even though I had the opportunity to play defense in high school, I wanted to play tight end.  

The (Ducks) got me up there for a trip, the last weekend before signing day. On the way home -- mind you this is 1999, end of January, and Oregon hadn’t even changed their uniforms yet, they were getting ready to. The history wasn’t that great, and I had bigger opportunities. 

I got on the plane, and I was little bit bothered, and my mom asked, “What’s wrong, George.” And I was like, “I think I need to go to Oregon.” She said, “I think so too; it’s the perfect spot for you.” 

So, we got home, slept on it, and the next day committed, and the rest is history. Looking back, it was a fantastic decision. 

Had you not picked the Ducks, which school do you think you would have attended? 

GW: I would have gone to UCLA, easy; I hated USC. The coach that I really connected with was the late Dick Tomey from Arizona, but I had a feeling he was going to get fired, and I was right. It wasn’t a real option, but I liked him a lot. 

What was the major factors in committing to Oregon? 

GW: The Warsaw School of Business, the coaches I connected with; I didn’t know anybody up in Eugene at the time. I pray about things. I am super-close with my family. We talked about it, and it just felt like the right place for me -- the things I wanted to do not only just with football, but my post-football career. 

This is how you know it was a faith-filled decision. I had offers to go to some really good schools, and I was a good student, had offers from Ivy League schools, Stanford. But I knew Oregon was the right place for me. 

Can you share a funny recruiting story, not necessarily about you, that you experienced or heard about?  

GW: Ha. So, I was at Oregon and we took a young man on a trip -- I can’t remember who was hosting him, but he was hanging out with us. You ask recruits what they want to do because you don’t want to take them into environments that they don’t want to be in. 

Some of the recruits are very wholesome and some are wild, and some of them a little too wild for me. So, this dude says he wants to go out, he wanted to see the social scene. We take him out, it’s a normal college weekend that you would experience on any campus, nothing crazy really going on -- normal standard college experience, people just hanging out, PG-13 stuff. 

The next day we get called into the coach’s office, me and this other dude, who will remain nameless for right now. Coaches ask us, “What did you guys do with him last night”? And I explain we just had a normal night, told the coaches exactly what we did, and they say this kid is acting like you took him to Sodom and Gomorrah. This is what he asked to do. 

Needless to say, the kid did not commit. His parents were all upset. 

What was the best part about your time on campus as a student-athlete? 

GW: Oh my gosh, it was amazing man. I just loved the Autzen crowd -- so loud, raucous, so crazy. After football, as an analyst and as a fan, been to a ton of college stadiums and the only environment that can possibly rival a Washington-Oregon game, or Oregon-USC in prime-time game playing for big stakes, is maybe – maybe -- LSU at night. 

I mean, Oregon and the electricity at a night game, the intensity of the stadium, and the fans is unmatched. Literally the only places that were close or comparable are the Seattle Seahawks when they are rolling, and the Kansas City Chiefs fans who get raucous, insane, and are loyal fanatics just like Duck fans.  

Probable the best part was living in the University Inn, which is now called Barnhart Hall, I think? Just the lifelong friends that I met, in the dorms my first roommate Orlando Evens, met my best friend Samie Parker, Peanut (Lindsey Bingham) -- she played soccer there -- Janell Bergstrom played softball. Just being on campus, college was such a good time.  

I left after my junior year, and I remember just how eager I was to get out, excited about the NFL, about money and all that. But as soon I got to the NFL, aside for the money, I would have rather been back at college. 

Have you had any contact with Mario Cristobal since he took over? They really seem to be trying to create a family atmosphere and value former Ducks. Can you tell me any interactions you have had, and what your feeling are in regards to the direction of the program? 

GW: I would say the staff under Mario Cristobal -- and it started with Willie Taggart, I know everyone is down on Willie; he actually did some really good things. He did a good job of trying to start the process of connecting with former players better, because there was a disconnect, and a little bit of frustration with some former players.  

(Taggart) made people believe you could recruit, signed the No. 1 class at the University of Oregon. He brought a new, fresh thing before leaving for his quote “dream job” -- which I bet if he had to do it over he wouldn’t have done it, but he did bring some good things to the situation. 

Coach Cristobal took what coach Taggart started and taken it to the next level. The recruiting, the mentality, the toughness, physicality and most of all and most important, the discipline. There is an accountability amongst the guys, and I love the toughness.  

I mean there is nothing (that could make me) more proud, because there was a couple of times in the previous years, and I tweeted it out how I was not proud how my team had looked after the game, and it’s just not about the loss.  

Let me give you an example. The women’s basketball team, even after a loss, which didn’t happen a whole lot, I am always proud of what Kelly Graves’ team looked like on the floor: intensity, discipline, hard work. You cannot always get it done physically, but you can play hard, you can be physical, and mentally tough.  

Those are the hallmarks of things that make me feel proud about the Ducks, and I always feel proud of Mario Cristobal’s team, even if sometimes I may not like or agree with -- it may be play-calling, etc., and I may get frustrated -- but I know it’s not for a lack of effort, preparation and discipline. We can all play Monday morning quarterback and second-guess coaching decisions, but I was always proud of the team’s effort put out on the field. 

We will have to talk another time about how Oregon’s uniform color combination and how it actually started. I played a big part in that process. 

Peace out! 

Sounds great. Thanks again for your time George. Stay safe, and talk with you soon. Go Ducks!


Tags: Football, Oregon
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