BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Almost nine minutes of game time had gone by and not a single point was scored. Surprising considering the Birmingham Stallions and the New Orleans Breakers were the top scoring offenses in the entire league through their Week 3 matchup at Protective Stadium.
But it seemed like it was all about to change. Breakers’ quarterback Kyle Sloter was clicking with his receivers and leading his offense down the field. New Orleans now faced a third-and-goal situation with just a single yard separating them from six points. The Stallions needed a stop.
Lucky for Birmingham, they have a guy who was made for big moments.
“I live for fourth and goal. That’s something you dream about,” linebacker Scooby Wright said.
And sure enough, he delivered. Sloter attempted to sneak the ball over the goal line, but as soon as it was snapped he began losing his handle on it and that’s when Wright, with expert timing, leaped over the offensive line, grabbed Sloter’s ankles, and pulled him backwards, allowing his teammates to grab the loose ball and end the drive unscathed.
It was very reminiscent of “Bo Over the Top,” the famous Iron Bowl touchdown by Bo Jackson coincidentally in Birmingham some 40 years ago. “Scooby Over the Top” does have a nice ring to it.
Birmingham now stands alone at the top of the USFL as the only remaining undefeated team. That play set the tone for the rest of the game. It’s what Wright and the defense have done all season.
Three games through the season, the Stallions lead the league in turnover differential and are second in total sacks. Not to mention holding the Breakers to just 13 points a week removed from the team hanging 34 on the scoreboard. And nobody had a bigger impact on the game than the man they call Scooby.
His real name is Philip, the third one in his family actually, so to help with the confusion, his dad decided to call him Scooby and it stuck.
“It’s cool, my parents knew I was going to be a dog,” he said.
And he was a dog last week, accounting for 17 tackles and a pass breakup. A stat line that jumps out in the box score but to Wright, it was another day in the office.
“Coming out of high school I knew I could play with the best of them,” Wright said. “Even now, I know how good I can be given the right opportunity and the right circumstances.”
Wright flourished in those circumstances in college at the University of Arizona where as a sophomore, he was named a unanimous All-America, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and won several national awards in 2104. He also finished ninth in Heisman voting, the highest defensive player that year after racking up 163 tackles. But then the circumstances took an unfortunate turn.
An injury in his junior season ended his collegiate career as he declared for the 2016 NFL Draft and was selected in the 7th round by the Cleveland Browns. He was eventually signed by the Arizona Cardinals later that season before being waived in September 2018.
Wright would get another brief NFL chance with the New England Patriots after a stint in the Alliance of America Football league before it folded. Then in 2019, he joined the XFL only to have the league suspend operations as well due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joining the USFL back in February made this Wright’s third spring football league he’s joined. His professional career began while many people are going to their first bar. Wright’s done a lot of growing he says, something he thinks will help him in the NFL if opportunity knocks again.
“I came into the NFL when I was 21 years old, as a rookie I was young as hell,” Wright said. “Now I have so much more life experience and stuff. I was a child then compared to now. It’d be really cool to get that opportunity when I’m a lot more mature.”
But while he is hoping for that chance again, he cherishes playing the sport he loves again and on the hometown team no less.
“Couldn’t ask for a better situation than the one I landed in,” Wright said. “I’m happy to be here.”
And Birmingham seems to be happy to have Wright as well, No. 33 with an old-school neck pad gets a lot of cheers and attention from fans as well as his coach.
“He plays with passion. 17 tackles. Impressive,” Stallions head coach Skip Holtz said in a postgame press conference.
Wright is undoubtedly the face of Birmingham’s defense, but he always wants to remind everyone that football is a team sport and he wouldn’t be here without the other 10 guys on the field. Even asking for this story to “keep hyping” the defense up.
“We’ve got a lot of good guys on our defense,” he said. “It’s fun and I’m truly having fun playing with the guys on the defensive unit.”
Wright and the Stallions look to remain undefeated Saturday night as they take on the Tampa Bay Bandits starting at 6 p.m.