ORONO, Maine — Micah Wright spent part of Monday’s first University of Maine football scrimmage as part of the chain gang, which operates the yard markers to let teams know how far they must go for a first down.
During his UMaine career, the wide receiver and punt returner certainly has moved the chains, catching 121 passes for 1,694 yards and 15 touchdowns.
He hopes do so again this year as the fifth-year senior looks to bounce back from surgery last November to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
The first team All-Colonial Athletic Association wide receiver and second-team punt returner has had a roller coaster career at UMaine.
When he has been on the field, he has been a game changer: someone with the ability to break a big play every time he touches the ball.
But he has suffered two season-ending injuries and has had to serve a pair of two-game suspensions for his role in off-field incidents.
“I came in here young and dumb and not necessarily mature,” said Wright, who is expected to play in the second of the team’s three scrimmages next Monday. “After everything that has happened in my career, I have learned from my mistakes. I have definitely matured a lot as a person and as a player, and I’m ready to contribute to the team in any way possible.”
“Yes, he made some mistakes, but I made young, dumb mistakes, too,” UMaine head coach Joe Harasymiak said. “He has been given a second chance, and he’s trying to make the best of it. Football-wise, he has obviously proven himself. He is a first team all-league player.”
Wright admitted it has been a trying time coming back from the knee surgery.
“It has been a long nine months. The first couple of weeks were really tough,” he said. “I honestly didn’t think it would be this hard. I’ve been lucky to have such great physical therapists work with me.”
Wright went to Brownstone Physical Therapy near his home in Newark, New York, during winter break, starting at 7 a.m. and continuing for two to three hours a day during the week. When he returned to UMaine, he began seeing Derek Loupin from Select Physical Therapy in Bangor.
“[Loupin] actually helped me out today,” Wright said.
Wright has been practicing with a brace on his right knee.
“It feels pretty good. I’m not 100 percent, but each day I get closer and closer to it,” Wright said. “It feels good running around, making some plays. I’m excited to be out here with my teammates.’”
Sophomore quarterback Chris Ferguson has worked out with Wright over the summer in Orono and can attest to Wright’s determination to have a productive final year.
“He has been working hard,” Ferguson said. ”Obviously, an injury like that does stuff to you. He has matured a lot. He brings a lot to the team mentally, physically and morally. He’s a big piece of our offense. He’s special. We try to get the ball to our playmakers, and he’s one of our top playmakers.”
Wright said he isn’t as fast as he once was but is learning to compensate.
“It’s like a pitcher who throws 98 (miles an hour) early in his career and then he has Tommy John (elbow) surgery, and when he comes back he throws 92. He has to learn how to pitch,” Harasymiak said. “He is going to have to learn how to be a football player without the same speed. Whenever you come back from this type of injury, you never come back with the same speed for the most part. But his route-running and ball skills are elite. When he tunes his game up, he’s going to be fine.”.
Wright said the brace is lightweight and he is getting used to it.
“It’s comfortable. It’s not big and bulky like the braces the linemen wear,” he said.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Wright played in just five games a year ago due to a two-game suspension and the knee injury. He caught 13 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned nine punts for 122 yards, and his 13.6 yards per return was second best in the conference. He returned a punt 77 yards for a TD in a win over Rhode Island.
“I love having Micah back,” senior linebacker Sterling Sheffield said. “It is great to see all the work he did in the offseason [is paying off]. He brings a competitiveness to the team. He’s a great player.”
He led the team in receptions, receiving yards and TD receptions in 2016 (44 catches-688 yards-7 TDs) and 2015 (61-for-818, 5 TDs). He has two career punt return touchdowns. He played just three games in his first year before being sidelined by an injury.
Wright looks forward to the Aug. 30 opener against New Hampshire.
“I’ve got the date on my whiteboard,” said Wright, whose goal for the season is simple.
“I just want to win,” he said.
Black Bear notes …
— Monday’s first scrimmage pitting the offense against the defense was scheduled for a 2:15 p.m. start but was moved up to 10:45 a.m. due to the sweltering 90-plus degree heat. “I thought we executed on both sides of the ball. There’s always things to correct but the ones [starters] showed why they are ones,” Harasymiak said.
— The coach noted that the team needs to develop quality depth, so a lot of second- and third-stringers got a lot of repetitions. “We really have to push those guys to see what they can do because they haven’t played a CAA game yet,” he said.
— Ferguson led the offense to a touchdown on its first drive with a 20-yard pass to Jaquan Blair, and redshirt freshman running back Ramon Jefferson broke a bunch of tackles during an 18-yard TD run. “We started out slow [on the first drive]. We missed a lot of tackles, including me. But we picked it up later on and a lot of the young guys stepped up,” Sheffield said.
— Ferguson said he was pleased with the offense. “I was happy with the running game,” he said. “The line did well; the right ends blocked well. We made plays.”
Follow BDN Maine Sports on Facebook for the latest in Maine high school and college sports.