Jordan linebacker Markus Wright hears call of West Point

Army commit Markus Wright discusses his recruitment

Jordan linebacker Markus Wright is committed to Army, a Division-I school. The process was a long one, but in the end he felt like Army would prepare him best for life after college.
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Jordan linebacker Markus Wright is committed to Army, a Division-I school. The process was a long one, but in the end he felt like Army would prepare him best for life after college.

Jordan senior Markus Wright is getting plenty of attention right now because of his athletic prowess. As a linebacker who just finished his last season with the Red Jackets, he will soon become the first player at the school in more than a decade to go directly to a Football Bowl Subdivision football program out of high school. He'll sign a pledge of commitment to Army at a ceremony during Wednesday's national signing day.

Despite that distinction, though, it wasn't football that swayed Wright's college decision. After a near six-month commitment to the University of California, he re-opened his recruitment in December and focused on two service academies, Army and Navy. When the dust settled, he made West Point his destination on Jan. 19.

Some may consider it a curious choice from a football standpoint. The Black Knights, after all, haven't won more than four games in a season since 2010, and that year was their only winning season since 1996. They've fallen 14 straight times to Navy and finished just 2-10 in 2015, their second year under head coach Jeff Monken, who came to West Point from Georgia Southern, where he was head coach.

But it wasn't just about football, Wright said. After returning from a visit to Cal, a strong academic institution in its own right, Wright considered the prestige of the U.S. Military Academy. He considered the discipline, the connection to his hometown and the opportunities he would have upon graduation.

Most of all, he considered the impact that his success could have on future generations of Red Jackets who haven't had such a talented and positive role model in athletics to look up to. That, he said, was why he made the decision he did.

"Army was my second offer," he said. "They were with me from the start. I was committed to Cal for six months and felt a big connection with the coaches and everything. But when I went on my visit, I came back and realized that after going to a regular university, I'll still have

to compete in the job world with millions of other people. West Point, there's so much prestige and clout that comes with that name. I realized it could set me for life and it'd be the best decision for me."

He considered both of the major service academies. They were his final two contenders after eliminating Cal. His dad was in the Canadian military and his mom, Tanema Willock, works in the Columbus Lions front office, a program with deep connections to Fort Benning and its military population.

Relationships like that fostered an interest for Wright, though none pushed him in that direction.

"They were all pro-West Point, but they told me to go with my heart, pray about it and make the best decision for me," he said.

The recruiting process for service academies is a little different than that of a regular four-year university. At those schools, there is, of course, discussion of academics and whether a player qualifies, but a major portion is about the program and how the player will fit in there.

Wright has a laundry list of things he has to accomplish before he can officially be accepted.

He will sign a non-legally binding pledge of commitment on Wednesday -- unlike at other FBS schools, players don't sign letters of intent to service academies -- but that's only part of the process. He had to qualify academically, both with his grade point average and SAT. He needs recommendations from teachers and has to pass a physical test. He is required to write a handful of essays -- he just finished his second last Friday, he said -- and he's waiting to see which senator or representative will be granting his congressional appointment.

He said he has finished most everything on the list except for the essays and the appointment.

"I was late making my decision, so we're not sure yet," he said of who his appointment will come from. "A lot of congressmen have already made their appointments. They only get so many, so we're trying to find which ones I can use."

Once he's at the school, there will be differences there too.

"The thing that stuck out the most was just the discipline," he said. "The constant discipline. Everyone there carries themselves differently. It's hard to be like that at a different school. Everyone relies on each other."

After he finishes school, he will owe the Army a five-year commitment.

"But it's really worth it. When you get that ring, you're so far ahead of everybody. You're separated from the average crowd."

That's something he wants future Jordan athletes and Columbus residents to realize. He hopes that his decision to focus on his long-term goals instead of just those associated with athletics will encourage others to do the same in the future.

"I take a lot of pride in what I do, and I wanted to make sure it was right," he said. "My demographic location, a lot of kids don't get the same opportunities. So it means a lot to me to give them a ray of hope. I feel like I can motivate people to do better in school, do better in athletics and chase their dreams."

That's not to say football won't be a big part of his goals, either. He knows Army's struggles on the football field over the past couple of decades. But he also knows how close the Black Knights came each of the past two years to ending Navy's long winning streak in their rivalry.

"I like a challenge," Wright said. "I like winning, don't get me wrong. But I like working for my win. We were close this year and last year. We've got a good recruiting class coming in, and we're going to get it next year."