Growing up, Winters Mill graduate Simeon Wright looked up to Randy Moss in more ways than one.
Moss was the fiery wide receiver, who played the game with a certain passion — and pizazz — that Wright wanted to emulate. While the attitude and love for the game were there for the future NFL Hall of Famer, so too was the talent.
Then there was physique. Moss, at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, could often best his competitors with help from his size during his 14-year career.
Wright, however, didn't have such an advantage during his four years in high school. At 5-8 and 160 pounds heading into his senior year, the speedy receiver focused on the parts of his game he could control, like agility and technique.
It's the same battle he's fighting now, as the incoming freshman at Towson University plans to try out for the team's football team following this season.
"Ever since I started playing in the seventh grade, all I wanted to do was play football," said Wright, a Times first-team all-countian for the Falcons last fall. "A bunch of my friends on the football team stopped playing. I still have the desire."
Wright finished second in the county with 48 receptions and 930 yards, and added nine touchdowns last fall. He ended his career with 1,214 career receiving yards and 10 touchdowns over two years.
With dreams of eventually making it to the NFL, Wright said he's taking it one step at a time. As a non-scholarship player with preferred walk-on status, there will be a roster spot for him following this season, though he still has to earn it through practice.
This fall, he'll watch the Tigers this fall from afar — the first season he'll be away from the game for six years. In the meantime, he'll continue his training, which has him working with former Winters Mill assistant coach Isaiah Groomes, a former Shenandoah football player.
"I've really been trying to work with Simeon on speed and acceleration," said Groomes, also a former track coach at the Winters Mill. "With his endurance, he's not getting as tired as he used to get. I've been working on the end phase of his sprinting. He's really working on extending his stride."
Groomes takes many of the technical aspects of Wright's training straight from track and field workouts for sprinters. If he's going to have a chance to work his way through a Division I depth chart and see time on the field, the coach said it's going to be because he is quicker and faster than everyone else around him.
"There's always those smaller athletes who amaze and dazzle people," Groomes added. "If he gets his speed up … I think Towson will want to take him."
The life of a non-scholarship player isn't always easy, but Wright isn't the first former Carroll County football player to go through the process at Towson.
Zach Heron, a Times first-team all-county tight end and 2014 Manchester Valley graduate, committed to play for the Tigers and had his spot guaranteed. Still, without the financial backing for his play, he's still paying to go to school on his own. The hard work he puts in is for his desire to continue the sport he loves.
"While the other guys get full scholarships, you get the crap beat out of you, you're paying for it," Heron said. "You just gotta love what you do, or there's no point in doing it … If you don't 100 percent enjoy it, it's going to eat you alive."
Heron redshirted during his freshman year at Towson, and back in March, tore a pectoral muscle, which sidelined him for spring practice.
He still has goals of cracking the starting lineup, or at least a rotation on the Tigers offense this fall. Even with his personal setbacks, the jump in competition he has to face as compared to his days in Manchester, are immense.
"It's a huge jump. You're playing Carroll County, and you're playing against the best in Carroll County, or in the playoffs, the best in the state," he said. "In college, you're going up against the best players from every high school, the best players in the country."
Like Heron, Wright hopes to represent Carroll County on the field at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
His constant contact with the Towson coaching staff following a camp last summer has paid off so far, but Wright said the continued work he plans to put in could be the difference. He also jokes that he plans to turn the "freshman 15" weight gain into pure muscle.