Commentary

Rayfield Wright: Hall of Fame tackle, respected voice

A former seventh-round pick, Rayfield Wright became one of the best tackles in history. Now he's earning acclaim for another talent -- his skills as a motivational speaker, writes Matt Mosley.

Originally Published: April 18, 2008
By Matt Mosley | ESPN.com

In 1967, Rayfield Wright was looking at football as his backup plan. The Cowboys were one of the first franchises to scout historically black colleges, and that's how the great Bob Hayes ended up coming to Dallas in 1965.

The Cowboys also had success identifying basketball players who could make the crossover to football. They went after a Kentucky basketball star named Pat Riley at one point, but he never made the transition. The Cincinnati Royals offered the 6-foot-7 Wright a chance to play professional basketball after his junior season at Fort Valley State, but he told them he couldn't leave early.

Wright, selected by the Cowboys in the seventh round of the 1967 draft as a tight end, would become one of the greatest offensive tackles ever to play in the league. Wright was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006, and his emotional speech is still being discussed.

[+] EnlargeRayfield Wright
AP Photo/Mark DuncanRayfield Wright gave a moving speech at his Hall of Fame induction, and he's been in demand ever since.
After retiring in 1980, Wright spent several years in Arizona, where he was the state's director of NFL alumni. He moved back to the Dallas area five years ago, and purchased a house on five acres near Weatherford. He owns and operates a company called Rayfield Wright Sports and Nutrition, but he spends most of his time making speeches across the country and raising money for the Rayfield Wright Foundation. The foundation raises money for college scholarships.

Just last week, Wright spoke at the Boy Scouts of America annual council at a hotel in Dallas. His 91-year-old Boy Scouts leader, David Walker, is the one who suggested that Wright speak at the meeting.

"He was more than a scouts leader," Wright said. "He was a father figure for me when I really needed one."

Wright has four children and three grandchildren. He estimates that he makes over 100 speeches a year, and his induction into the Hall of Fame only increased the demand. This spring, he'll deliver the commencement speech at Drake University.

"No matter who I'm talking to, my message is designed to be inspirational and motivational," said Wright, who ranks No. 17 on ESPN.com's list of all-time draft steals. "I had a lot of people help me along the way, and I wouldn't feel right unless I was giving back."

When he's not making speeches, Wright is working in his yard.

"That's the one way I get away from everything," he said. "It's very seldom you hear a siren or anything. You see cardinals and blue jays during the days, and you hear them all night long. I like dealing with Mother Nature."

Wright also works with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in his spare time. At 62, he's not interested in slowing down.

"Right now, I'm trying to work on my golf game a little," he said. "I have some charity tournaments and I don't want to embarrass myself."

Matt Mosley covers the NFL for ESPN.com