'It feels surreal': Browns' Alex Wright gets goosebumps as he teams with Myles Garrett
BEREA — Just the thought of playing across from Myles Garrett gave Alex Wright goosebumps.
If Browns star defensive end texted the team’s 78th overall pick Friday night, chances are Wright didn't sleep.
“Probably night. I’m not even going to lie, I would be so hyped,” Wright said. “I’d be in disbelief and in shock.
“Being able to just watch him and now have the chance to play across from him is like a dream come true. It feels surreal.”
Smitten by Wright's personality and intrigued by his size and length, the Browns used the 14th pick in the third round on the junior defensive edge from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Glenn Cook, the Browns' vice president of player personnel, believes Wright can immediately help in the run game and could develop into an effective interior pass rusher.
Wright had 91 tackles, 19 for losses, 12½ sacks, three forced fumbles, and five passes defensed in his three seasons as a starter at UAB, where he played the edge in a 3-4 scheme. The Browns are going to try to teach Wright some of the moves used on the inside by Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, currently a free agent whom the Browns hope to resign.
“There were snapshots of it,” Cook said. “That is a part of it where you are trying to project, ‘Hey, can he do this? Can we help him grow in this area?’ I think some of the opportunities he did get to do it, he really displayed the potential, the ability, and the effectiveness as an interior pass rusher.
“We put a ton of value on being able to keep people inside, especially in some of our ends…. It is pretty exciting to see if he has similar potential.”
Wright thinks he can handle it.
“That was one of those things in college that I wanted to do, I wanted to try it out,” Wright said. “In practice, it was like baby steps. I was like, ‘I can do this in a game’ and then when it showed in the game it was like, ‘I can do this, I can be more versatile, I don't have to rush on the outside.’ I look forward to rushing on the inside."
Also exciting the Browns is the fact that Wright stands 6-foot-5 and 271 pounds and is still growing into his body.
“He came into UAB at 210 pounds He still has room to grow,” Cook said. “There is a lot of clay to work with there.”
Garrett will have the chance to do some of the molding.
“He might get tired of me because I am asking questions,” Wright said. “‘How do you get from their stance to your eyes? Feet to eyes?' Arms, hand placement … bending, knees, everything I am asking.”
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Wright grew up in Elba, Alabama, a town with a population of less than 4,000. He started playing football in the second grade, but switched to band in middle school.
“I played woodwinds … saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone. I even played clarinet … and I was pretty good,” Wright said.
As a freshman at Elba High School, Wright returned to sports, but chose basketball. It wasn’t until his sophomore year he switched to football, playing edge rusher and wide receiver. He's still lamenting that he scored just one touchdown.
Asked what drew him back to the game, Wright said, “Just the vibe of being in Friday night lights. Me being from the South, football is taken a lot serious and it's no other thing like it. Me wanting to be a part of that because I was in band, I liked music. I wanted to take a break from music, but still keep it on the side.
“But I wanted to focus on football because I … could see myself having fun at it. It was just the environment, whether it was the band, whether it was the smell of the grass, whether it was the lights on Friday. I felt a little bit of the environment and I wanted to get back out there.”
Wright said he “cannot wait to switch to a different defense," but Cook said the Browns won’t expect him to be perfect right away.
“What we do love about him is he is big, he is long and he is physical,” Cook said. “He will definitely come in and contribute in the run game right away. Then we can kick him inside. He did not get a ton of opportunities to do that at UAB, but we see some of that ability in him, and that will help us out on third down.”
Wright was one of the 30 pre-draft visits the Browns were allowed and General Manager Andrew Berry said Wright made an impression with his character and his potential.
“He was really a favorite across the organization — scouts, coaches, and our research and strategy group,” Berry said. “We like him because he is a player who profiles as what we call a big end or a strong-side end, but with Alex, he really has the versatility to rush outside and inside.
“We love his frame. We love his ability to rush the passer. When we brought him in for a 30 visit, everybody just spoke glowingly. He is very driven, he is very smart, and a very humble individual. We are excited to have him. He is a perfect scheme fit for our defense.”
Wright got good vibes throughout his communication with the Browns.
“It was really genuine. You could tell it was from the heart, everything they said,” Wright said. “Just going through and talking with D-line coaches, defensive coordinators, just talking to every coach, it felt like it was my home.
“They never said anything negative, it was always positive and they spoke positive, which is one thing that I like about Cleveland. So it's honestly an honor for me to even have the chance to go to Cleveland."
One can only imagine what an honor it will be when Wright first encounters Garrett.
“My first time meeting him will probably be like ‘Wow, this is Myles Garrett!’” Wright said. “So, I can’t wait. I can’t wait.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read more about the Browns at www.beaconjournal.com/browns. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.