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Posted on Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 10 a.m.

Former Michigan kicker Bryan Wright returns to Ann Arbor this weekend with Bowling Green

By Michael Rothstein

As Bryan Wright performed squats and cleans in the Schembechler Hall weight room at the end of last football season, with little weight on the bar and three bulging discs in his lower back, he had enough.

The pain, after two years, was too much.

With graduation from the University of Michigan on the horizon and concern for his long-term health in mind, Wright went to coach Rich Rodriguez and told him he wouldn’t be returning as a fifth-year senior.

“I had one more year left and wanted to play, but I went to that workout and, basically, it made my decision,” Wright said. “It was a tough workout and I felt miserable and said ‘I can’t go on doing this stuff again.’”

Which is why what Michigan fans will see on Saturday is so unexpected.


Bryan Wright, shown above during the Bowling Green spring game, was a kickoff specialist for three years at Michigan. He'll return to Michigan Stadium with the Falcons on Saturday.

Photo courtesy Bowling Green

Wright will enter Michigan Stadium as a player one last time. He’ll put on his pads, warm up and kick in front of 110,000 people. Just this time, it’ll be for Michigan’s opponent Saturday, Bowling Green (noon, ESPN2).

Used strictly as a kickoff specialist for three seasons at Michigan, Wright will handle kickoffs, punts and place-kicking for the Falcons (1-2).

“Never thought that would be a possibility,” said Wright’s mother, Jody, whom he consulted with before making his decision to leave Michigan. “Crazy, isn’t it? So we’ll see how he does.”

How Wright reached this point is due to some fortuitous timing and hard work.

When he decided he’d give up football, it was to fix his back. He worked out. He did some light running. Twice a week, while finishing his last semester at Michigan, he drove to Jackson to visit a chiropractor.

Weeks turned to months and, slowly, Wright healed. His back, once a constant source of pain and discomfort, began to feel better.

Already accepted to Bowling Green as a graduate student majoring in hospitality management, Wright learned of an NCAA rule that would allow him a final year of eligibility if his new school had a graduate degree program that his old school didn’t. Michigan doesn’t offer a hospitality management graduate program.

Wright contacted Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson and asked if he had a spot for a walk-on. Clawson’s response, Wright said, was “absolutely.”

The Bowling Green coaches are also being safe with Wright. They limit his kicking and punting during the week to make sure he is fresh for Saturdays and to make sure his back no longer acts up.

Soon after he walked on to Bowling Green, word filtered to Ann Arbor. Wright would return to Michigan this year. As an opponent.

“He seemed excited about the opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “We weren’t even sure if he was going to play anymore. When he first finished up with us, graduated, we thought he was going to be done.

“But with the graduate school exception, it became an opportunity for him to play one more year.”

The irony for both Wright and Michigan is the current kicking conundrum with the Wolverines. While Wright handles all kicking duties for Bowling Green, Michigan is still unsettled on special teams. Brendan Gibbons and Seth Broekhuizen are a combined 1-for-5 on field goal attempts and have three touchbacks on 18 kickoffs. Freshman punter Will Hagerup has struggled in his first three games, as well, averaging 39.0 yards on 11 attempts.

Yet Wright refuses to think about alternative possibilities.

“I try to live life with no regrets,” Wright said. “I know Brendan (Gibbons), he’s one of my good friends. He’s a good guy, great kicker. He had first-, second-game nerves. The first home game and first away game are two huge games in a person’s career, especially in playing for Michigan.

“There’s a ton of nerves on your back. He’s a great kicker and I think he’ll end up pulling through in the end.”

Wright knows all about nerves. He suffered through his own a couple weeks ago in Troy, Ala. His 35-yard punt on the first possession of the Falcons’ 30-27 loss to Troy was his first in a college game. His point-after kick on the team’s next possession was his first collegiate point.

After three weeks, Wright has made three of six field goals -- a long of 27 yards -- and is averaging 42.7 yards per punt.

“Two things (jumped out),” Bowling Green special teams coach Adam Scheier said of his first impression of Wright. “One, just how strong his leg was live and in person, how live the ball was and how it jumped off his foot.

“The other thing was his calm demeanor, the confidence that comes from being a fifth-year senior and kicking in some big venues. You can’t really teach that.”

Saturday, though, could be different. It’s why Wright’s process of preparation -- visualization of everything that is going to happen on a particular Saturday -- is a bit more detailed this week.

He knows what the crowd is going to be like. He knows what the stadium looks like, how the wind can blow in Michigan Stadium and what the reactions are likely to be. He’s even imagined what his friends-turned-opponents Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin might shout at him.

“They are my good buddies,” Wright said. “I could see them trying to make me laugh or something.

“But every time I kick the ball, in my mind, I imagine myself making the field goal or making a 60-yard punt or something. It’s a great technique and it’s been working so far.”

Michael Rothstein covers sports for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein



Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 5:47 a.m.

As far as "RR's first recruits are now Juniors". Really? Let's do this one more time. RR came in 2008. The 2008 recruits were already established by the previous coaching staff. Do you really know who RR brought in 2008. I know of Feagin. I know Threet transfered after Mallet left. Most of the 2008 class had been recruited since they were high school juniors and seniors. Long before RR came. Of the 25 freshmen in 2008 class, 20 are still here. In 2009, that's just last year, was RR's first recruiting class, and consisting of players who played the spread in high school. Of that class of 29, 20 were redshirted and did not play last year. 2010 we have 30 freshmen. At least 20 will redshirt this year also. So yes you see a lot of fresmen, RS freshmen, and sophomores contributing. Of this years graduating class, we have 8 fifth year seniors, and 3 true seniors. But we have 24 RS juniors, that will be 5th year for next years team. Thats 27 players from the 2007 recruiting class that are still here, 25 from the 2008 class, 29 from the 2009 class, 30 from the 2010 class. Each year it gets better and the recruiting gets more consistant. I know some will question the 2008 numbers. Don't forget that we get kids who transfer in and walk-ons. I don't know if the spread is the "answer". But it sure is fun to watch. I was bored to tears in the 2000's. Hang in there Mich Faithful.


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 5:09 a.m.

bornina2 Yes it would be nice to have an experienced kicker. But this young man you are waxing over just kicked in his first game this year. No one knows yet how good or bad he will be till the end of the year.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 3:18 p.m.

Without a decently consistent kicker the 8-4 season could turn into a 6-6...indiana and michigan state will more in likely come down to who can get close enough for a field goal in the last minutes of the fourth..for michigan they better hope they are lined up in the middle of the field and inside the 10 yard line haha GO BLUE!!

3 And Out

Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 3 p.m.

Boy we could use Bryan this year... its too bad....that for whatever reason, he decided to leave or was not asked back... interesting.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 1:58 p.m.

BornInA2, since you are such an expert and expect RR to lose his job at the end of this season, why don't you apply for the job? I bet you would make a better head coach since it's so easy for you to see what could be done better from your living room couch, isn't it


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 11:56 a.m.

Nice story. I don't know why Wright never got it done at Michigan, but he was behind some pretty good kickers. I remember that he was pretty highly touted when LC recruited him. I wish him well and hope that he has a great year (minus one win this weekend), and maybe if his punting keeps up, he can have a career pending his back. It always makes me wonder how these players go through it for 4 years or more, knowing that they might be hurt or not play, and stay positive. Must be frustrating. But let's give Wright credit for not leaving the team earlier and for graduating. I think those young folks who are transferring are not allowing themselves to progress and grow (or maybe they can't handle the academics at UM). Good luck to Bryan Wright.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 11:53 a.m.

What role did Barwis play in all of this? Was Wright lifting weights because he was told he had to?


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 11:39 a.m.

A good insight Wright brings up is the pressure that you feel as a kicker in your first few games, especially at Michigan, which maybe explains the lack of productivity so far. I suspect the coaching staff may need to give Gibbons some encouragement to help his confidence, especially since Wright thinks he will be a good kicker. A lot about being a good kicker is having confidence and experience. Experience comes with time, but confidence comes from within and from the coaching staff. When he hears comments like RR asking for anyone in the student body for help in the kicking game, that probably doesn't help Gibbons' confidence any and may be contributing to his problems, which are probably more mental than physical in the first place.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 11:10 a.m.

Okay, my post was deleted without an explanation, so I'll try again less pointedly. How many players is it now that really would have helped the team that have left early to play for another team, pro or college? We could *really* use an experienced kicker this year and the kid who could and wanted to be filling that role, a fifth year senior, is playing for BGSU instead. Yes, the team is young and inexperienced. But it shouldn't be at this point: RR's first recruits are now juniors. Why are we still staring true freshman and sophomores?


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 10:04 a.m.

This is a very interesting story. It does make you wonder whether his back problem was ignored or not diagnosed properly when he was at Michigan. Or maybe he just didn't want to bring it up with the coaches. Oh well, it sounds like he was destined for grad school somewhere else. But his statement that Gibbons is a "great kicker" may be a little misguided. But, I do hope Wright is correct that Gibbons will eventually work through it and become a great kicker. That's probably Michigan's only option this year. Long term though, I'd be recruiting another kicker hard, if I were RR.


Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 9:53 a.m.

Oh boy, I don't even want to think about Wright making a game winning field goal against Michigan in a most bitter upset. Especially if our field goal kickers miss again... I didn't want to think about it, but I guess I just did, right?