July 5, 2022

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Rayfield Wright, Corridor of Famer and Dallas Cowboys legend, dies at 76

Rayfield Wright, the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame offensive deal with nicknamed “Massive Cat” who performed in 5 Tremendous Bowls throughout his 13 NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, died Thursday. He was 76 years outdated.

Wright’s household confirmed his dying Thursday to the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame, which stated Wright was hospitalized for a number of days following a extreme seizure. The Cowboys additionally confirmed the dying.

“Rayfield Wright was the epitome of what it takes to be a Corridor of Famer,” Cowboys proprietor/common supervisor Jerry Jones stated in a press release. “His grit, agility, ardour, charisma and love for the sport of soccer, the neighborhood and his household all the time shined by means of. The unique ‘Massive Cat’ helped form the way forward for the Dallas Cowboys all through his tenure. illustrious 13-year enjoying profession. Rayfield was a champion on and off the court docket. He remained an vital a part of the Cowboys household lengthy after his enjoying days had been over, and he might be deeply missed. Our love and our assist goes to his spouse, Di, and your complete Wright household.”

An ideal participant for his period at 6-foot-6 and over 250 kilos, Wright had already been a reserve tight finish for just a few seasons when coach Tom Landry requested him to play deal with. A shocked Wright stated he had by no means performed deal with in his life, however Landry advised him he would make an excellent one.

Wright began at deal with in a 1969 recreation in opposition to Deacon Jones, probably the most dominant passing thrower of that period. Wright held on and settled in as a full-time starter at proper deal with in 1970, when Dallas made its first Tremendous Bowl. The Cowboys then received their first Tremendous Bowl title in 1971, the primary of six consecutive seasons Wright was a Professional Bowler. He was a three-time All-Professional.

“He was completely the very best,” Corridor of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach stated earlier than Wright’s induction into the corridor in 2006. “Rayfield was an enormous, sturdy man who was in a position to switch his measurement and his power from tight finish to deal with ft that he was in a position to cope with a few of the quickest defensive ends and even linebacker blitzes.If he was crushed, I don’t keep in mind.

His nickname “Massive Cat” was as a result of he was so agile for his measurement.

Dallas received one other Tremendous Bowl in 1977, however Wright solely performed two video games that season attributable to knee surgical procedure. He had performed in 95 of the crew’s 98 common season video games, beginning 94 of them within the earlier seven seasons.

After Wright began solely 16 of his 31 video games in 1978 and 1979, he was launched by the Cowboys the next spring. He signed with NFC East rival Philadelphia however formally retired attributable to lingering accidents early in coaching camp with out enjoying a recreation for the Eagles.

Wright was recognized with early-stage dementia in 2012, however has lengthy been plagued with seizures since retiring. He believed they had been as a result of results of steady blows to the top whereas enjoying soccer. He had lengthy hidden complications, dizziness and, at instances, unexplained irritability and forgetfulness.

In a 2014 interview with The New York Occasions, Wright stated he had suffered so many concussions throughout his NFL profession that he couldn’t even rely them.

When he was lastly inducted into the Corridor of Fame greater than 1 / 4 century after his final recreation, Wright was launched to Canton, Ohio by longtime Fort Valley State soccer coach, Stan Lomax.

Wright didn’t even make his highschool soccer crew for 3 years in Griffin, Georgia, earlier than heading to Fort Valley State in his house state to play basketball. The next summer time, Lomax made him give up his summer time job at a mill to arrange to affix the soccer crew.

Lomax tried Wright at free security, then used him as a punter, defensive finish and tight finish. The coach additionally grew to become a father determine to Wright, who was picked by the Cowboys within the seventh spherical of the 1967 NFL Draft.

Wright nonetheless most well-liked basketball, though he turned down a proposal after his junior season to signal with the NBA’s Cincinnati Royals, the franchise that’s now the Sacramento Kings, so he may full his schooling.

His sights had been nonetheless on the NBA when Cowboys director of participant personnel Gil Brandt known as and stated the crew was concerned about signing him.

“I noticed that the potential, enjoying for the Cowboys, was a God given alternative, and I couldn’t ignore it. I made a decision to attend Cowboys coaching camp which was in July. The Royals camp didn’t begin till August,” Wright stated in his Corridor of Fame speech. “I figured if I didn’t make the Cowboys crew, I may go straight to the NBA.”

Wright stated Brandt “signed anybody who may stroll” and was amongst 137 rookies in coaching camp for the Cowboys in 1967. He was one in all 5 who made the crew.

Wright was a reserve deal with for the primary two months of the 1969 season, then was thrust into the beginning place when Ralph Neely was injured. His first begin got here when Dallas, then 8-1, performed the Los Angeles Rams 9-0 with their Fearsome Foursome protection.

“We stroll as much as the road of scrimmage and I take a look at Deacon Jones sq. in his eyes, his eyes appear to be purple like hearth, he kicks again like a bull,” Wright later recalled. “I’m like, ‘My God, what did I get myself into?’”

Earlier than the ball was damaged, Jones bellowed, “Boy, does your mama know you right here?” Wright was so shocked that Jones ran him over.

“I circled, checked out our sideline considering Coach Landry was going to take me out of the sport,” Wright stated. “At that time, Deacon Jones put his massive arms down and stated, ‘Hey, rookie, welcome to the NFL. … I stated, ‘Properly, Mr. Jones, you don’t know my mum, so don’t speak about her. You need to play the sport that method, we’ll play it.’”

The Rams received 24-23, however Wright received recreation ball for the work he ended up doing in opposition to Jones. Their duels through the years have gone a good distance in constructing Wright’s status.

Dallas by no means had a shedding file in Wright’s 13 seasons, a stretch that included eight NFC Championship video games and people 5 Tremendous Bowl appearances. He was on the NFL’s All-Decade Crew within the Seventies.

Data from The Related Press was used on this report.