He says he did not fully understand the rule until he read the rule.
That’s when it hit Jeremiah Wright.
He blew it. There would be consequences.
Sure, he was angry, upset at himself, frustrated that he was going to miss time on the football field.
But he also wanted to turn a negative into a positive, to apply what sports has taught him.
There are penalties for wrongdoing. Many, perhaps most, penalties are the right calls, even if there is no intention to do harm.
The best athletes accept those ramifications, try to improve, and come back better.
Wright had the best game of his senior season — the best game of his career — last week, helping the Skyview Storm beat Olympia 38-27 in a state preliminary round football game.
Skyview quarterback Brody Barnum kept throwing him the ball, and Wright kept catching it, totaling 11 receptions for 214 yards and three touchdowns.
“That was a ‘Thank God day,’ ” Wright said. “After everything I went through, I looked up and said ‘Thank You God.’ ”
Skyview’s win put the Storm in the Class 4A state playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Skyview travels to take on Chiawana of Pasco at 3 p.m. Saturday in the opening round.
Before Wright could make it to November football, he had to sit out a few September dates.
A picture of Wright and some classmates at a post-prom party materialized. Alcohol was in the picture. Wright said he was not drinking, but he was at the party — and that is against the athlete’s code for Skyview students.
Skyview athletic director Luke LeCount confirmed that athletes in Vancouver Public Schools agree to refrain from “consuming, selling, purchasing or being associated with drugs and alcohol” every day of the year.
Wright was initially suspended for the first five games of football season. He went through an appeals process and the penalty was reduced to three games.
“The main purpose of (the rule) is to make better decisions,” Wright acknowledged.
Attending a party with alcohol and/or drugs is simply a no-go.
“You’re going to be disciplined,” Wright said.
A 6-1, 190-pound wide receiver with blazing speed, Wright has been making big plays for the Storm since his sophomore season. But as he trained this past summer, as he prepared for his final high school season, he struggled with the fact that he would miss so much time. He let his teammates down, he let himself down.
“I am disappointed in myself,” Wright said. “Not that they needed me. But I could have been a big help.”
In a way, he was still a big help. Just not in games.
“It was a pain. It hurt. But it was definitely a life lesson,” Wright said. “You can’t be sorry about it. Being sorry isn’t going to get you anything. I looked at it … when I come back, I know I’m going to be better than ever.”
That started with practice. Wright was not suspended from the team, just games. He became the star of the scout team, pretending to be the other’s team best player to give the Skyview defensive players a good look. He said that was his position in those three weeks, the No. 1 red-hat on the squad.
“To his credit, man, he practiced hard,” Skyview coach Steve Kizer said. “He was one of the best receivers in Washington, running the other team’s routes better than the team we were about to play. He accepted that role.”
In fact, Kizer said, Wright still puts on the red hat over his helmet to be on the offensive scout team during Skyview defensive drills.
“I believe he learned his lesson,” Kizer said.
LeCount said he appreciated the fact that Wright did not point any fingers.
“He took responsibility and served the suspension,” LeCount said.
“I did what I did,” Wright said. “I’m man enough, mature enough to overcome this.”
He returned in Week 4 and had 99 yards in his first game of his season. In Week 8, he caught seven passes for 129 yards to help Skyview clinch a playoff spot. And then in Week 10, he went into superstar mode in Olympia.
“Wow. Wow,” Barnum said. “He makes the guys miss him, and he’s in the end zone. That deep ball, he just ran past those guys. Amazing.”
Of course, Wright’s playoff performance made him feel good, but he learned long ago that the numbers do not mean much.
“Once you play for stats, you’re going to play negatively,” he said. “I’m going to make that catch for my boys. I’m going to make that block for my boys. I’m going to run this route for my boys. Once we realize that, we play to our full potential.”
Wright and the Storm seem to be hitting their peak with four wins in a row. Next year, Wright expects to be playing junior college football, with the goal to one day play for a four-year school.
Today, he just wants to enjoy his final weeks with Skyview football, hoping the season extends into December. He missed the first few weeks, but he is grateful for his second chance.
“I’m just glad I’m here with my guys. I’m just glad we’re here together,” Wright said. “It’s been a great journey, that’s all I can say.”