Recruiting has become as much about family as it is about football for Carver’s Gabe Wright.
And according to his brother Covington, hitting the recruiting trail has been an excellent source of family bonding as the highly sought-after lineman prepares to choose between Auburn, Tennessee and Alabama at 1:40 p.m. today with a national television audience watching on www.ledger-enquirer.com and ESPNU.
Gabe is the youngest of four brothers. Gordon, 30, is the oldest. Covington, 26, began the family’s ties to the Carver football program. And Marcus, 22, played there, too. But Gabe has made the biggest waves on the field, drawing in dozens of scholarship offers from major colleges across the country.
Covington’s experience being recruited -- he signed with Ole Miss and eventually played at North Alabama -- has allowed him to offer some advice as Gabe prepared to make his decision. But no one’s opinion has been as important to the 6-foot-3, 275-pound lineman than that of his mother, Viola Wright.
Gabe, who could not be reached for this story, rarely fails to mention what his mother thought of a visit to a college or from a particular coach. “My mom is really enjoying the recruiting process and living in the moment with it,” Covington said. “She has a lot of things she likes at certain schools, and we respect that.”
Viola raised her children as a single mother, and her relatives live in Germany, where she was born and raised. Because of that, the Wrights are a small and close-knit bunch, Covington said.
“We’re a tight family,” Covington said. “All my mom’s family is still overseas, and things didn’t work out with our dad. We’ve gotten real close because of how we rely on each other.”
Together, the family has made the recruitment into a bonding experience as Gabe, his mother, Covington and his wife, Carmellia, and two daughters and his nephew go on the official college visits, calling themselves “the crew.” Through countless hours on the road -- Gabe has said he has taken as many as 20 unofficial visits just to Auburn -- they have grown together.
“It’s just seven of us in a Tahoe riding out to all these visits, and we really get to bond,” Covington said. “You learn a lot about each other in the car, staying in hotels, seeing someone eat and how they act. You get really close.”
Coffee with Saban
The Wrights’ brush with college recruiting began with Covington, who played through the 2002 season at Carver. David Cutliffe, then the coach at Ole Miss, paid the family a visit, and Covington said he and his mother had never been so excited. Covington was recruited by Ole Miss, UAB and North Carolina, and at the time, said he could not imagine more high-profile coaches paying the family a visit.
“Then all the sudden last Friday there’s (Alabama coach) Nick Saban in the house drinking coffee with my mom,” Covington said. “I never expected to see Nick Saban in the house, but the legacy continues, and it just keeps getting better.”
Long before there were family recruiting trips, it was still football bringing Covington and Gabe closer together. The older brother convinced former Carver coach Wallace Davis to let Gabe be the team’s ball boy, a job he held for six years.
“That’s how it all started off,” Covington said. “Gabe was always hanging around me, talking about football. That’s how we’ve bonded.”
Having a big family giving input can lead to some problems, particularly when two people have conflicting views of a school or a program. But the Wrights have made sure that Gabe never feels overwhelmed with pressure or unable to make his own choice.
“I always tell Gabe he just needs structure and stability in a college,” Covington said.
“My mom’s big thing is character. She is trying to make sure Gabe goes where he can be a good man, not just a football player. She wants him to go someplace where he can be someone in society.”
Here is a list of the players who are confirmed as signing today. Carver may have as many as a dozen more.
Isaiah Crowell— Georgia or Alabama
Mike Davis— Memphis
Quintavius Harrow — Georgia
Riyahd Jones — Massachusetts, Georgia Southern or Central Florida
Quincy McKinney — South Carolina
Gabe Wright — Auburn, Tennessee or Alabama
Tori Bennett — Stillman College
Meschah Chambers — West Alabama
Bronterrious Jakes — Arkansas State
J.D. McKissic — Arkansas State
Bryan Shorter — Western Kentucky
Austin Scott — Valdosta State
LaMichael Fanning — Alabama
William Rutledge — Mesabi Range Community and Technical College, Virginia, Minn.
Shaquille Tolbert — Army
Lorenzo Betties — Highland (Kan.) Community College