Demetrius Wright's first three years at USC didn’t quite go as planned. Arriving as a highly touted safety prospect from Corona (Calif.) in the class of 2010, he found himself buried on the depth chart from the get-go. Unable to dig himself out, he had collected a total of just 28 tackles in three seasons -- much of it on special teams.
Yet through it all, Wright remained upbeat.
“I thought, ‘I’m at SC,’ and that’s a blessing by itself,” Wright said. “Just being here is something to be proud of.”
Still, Wright yearned to make an impact on the field.
And now, in his senior campaign, he’s doing just that.
Lining up as the Trojans’ starting free safety in nine games so far this fall -- including in each of the team’s last five victories -- Wright has developed into one of the secondary’s most reliable performers. A physical athlete who also provides veteran leadership, Wright has amassed 47 tackles and three pass break-ups on the year.
“It’s just been about me getting the opportunity to go out there,” Wright said. “Coach [Clancy] Pendergast and Coach [Ed] Orgeron giving me this chance has allowed me to show what I can do.”
It seems almost bittersweet, then, that with everything having finally come together for Wright, when he runs out of the Coliseum tunnel this Saturday, it will mark the last time he does so as a Trojan.
“I’m sure I’m going to have some strong emotions,” Wright said. “I know I’m going to feel it coming down the tunnel. It means a lot. A lot of guys don’t even finish their career here. It’s a deep tradition that I’m a part of, and it’s a real honor.”
Adding to those emotions is the fact that USC won’t be taking on just any opponent this weekend, but crosstown rival UCLA. With bragging rights and team pride on the line, it’s a game that is always marked by intensity and a spirited atmosphere. And with the Trojans falling to the Bruins 38-28 a year ago, it’s a matchup that can’t come soon enough for Wright.
“I’m looking forward to it to try to get some payback for last year,” Wright said, “to try to get that bad taste out of our mouth.”
But as Wright and the rest of the USC defense is well aware, it won’t be easy. The Bruins feature an offense that generates 36.6 points per game -- the No. 26 mark in the FBS -- and it’s directed by one of the nation’s most dynamic quarterbacks, Brett Hundley. The Bruins QB has proven equally dangerous with his feet as he is with his arm. He’s UCLA’s second-leading rusher (507 yards), while also ranking No. 2 in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency.
“He’s another dual-threat,” Wright said. “He’s a good quarterback, so we’ve got to try to contain him. It’s going to be a tough challenge, but we’re ready.”
If Wright and Co. are successful in their efforts to limit Hundley, it stands to reason that a victory would likely follow. And for a player who has already come so far, it would serve as the perfect ending to his final game at home.
“Everything is playing out for the best in my senior year so far,” Wright said. “It would mean the world to come away with a win.”