ATHENS — The 2019 football season wasn’t a lot of fun for Athens’ Wildcats football team, but that 1-10 record may have gone a long way toward this season’s rebound.
One major part of that resurgence of Wildcat football earned a significant award on Tuesday when lineman Ian Wright picked up a Class AAA All-State nod as an offensive lineman. That’s an elite field as only five linemen made the grade.
Wright said he wasn’t expecting the honor.
“For my senior year, it’s kind of a surprise,” said Wright, who earlier in the season earned a first-team All-NTL spot on the offensive line. “I had a hard three years coming up, just working hard trying to have a good season. Everything came through in my last year.”
Wright indicated that the 1-win season did serve as motivation for him and for his teammates.
“After last season, in the summer, we were like, ‘it was a bad season,’ he said. “We decided to get in the gym and start training and doing everything we needed to do to get better. We tried to get the whole team in. Next year, they’re going to have the whole team getting in the gym. It’s good to see them putting work in.
“After last year, I got in the gym like crazy. I dropped a bunch of weight and I gained back almost half of that in muscle. I’m getting even better right now.”
No award of this type is really an individual award, even though just one name is selected for the honor. Wright lauded his guys and a relationship that extended — and extends — well beyond the field.
“I couldn’t ask for better teammates. They’re all my brothers,” he said. “After the season, we’re all still best friends doing stuff together.”
Wright also added that his coaches efforts played a major role.
“The whole season they were on me,” Wright said. “I could tell they were pushing me a different way this year to make sure I’d succeed at my top level. That definitely pulled me through, especially with our new coaches.”
Those coaches include Keith Kline, Steve Satterly and at times, Al Orshal. Wright also mentioned Head Coach Jack Young and the running back coaches as those with the biggest influence.
Wright noted that the offseason work needed to be successful began to be stressed more after the 2019 season.
“My first two years, we had ‘Wildcat Days.’ They were little practices, but they’re not mandatory and you didn’t see the whole team,” said the senior. “We weren’t lifting at all. Actually, it was like ‘do your one thing.’ Now, the gym’s almost a mandatory thing. They try to persuade everybody to get in.”
And what is he hoping to see from the 2021 version of the Wildcats?
“I hope next year they’re looking forward to being in that same position. I hope they all proceed to get big, eat on the field and make plays.”