Journey Home to Bloomington Hasn't Been Easy For Kevin Wright

Tom Brew

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — When Kevin Wright decided to leave the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida and then take a job on Tom Allen's staff at Indiana, he and his wife Elizabeth, an IU grad herself, were coming home.

But getting to Bloomington hasn't been easy. And it still isn't.

Wright was hired to coach tight ends at Indiana in late January. He came to Bloomington, met his fellow coaches and a handful of his players and then immediately hit the road recruiting.

He rented an apartment in Bloomington and was in town for Indiana's four spring practices, but then was back down in Florida for a quick trip when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down college campuses across the country and everyone went into Zoom mode. Unable to meet face-to-face anyway, coaches and their players do the best they can remotely from parts unknown and, in Wright's case, that's been from his home in Bradenton, Fla. 

He and the family — daughter Tiffany will be a freshman at Indiana in the fall and son Will is going to be a freshman in high school — are still in Florida finishing up school, but they're hoping to relocate soon once school is over and restrictions start to ease.

"I went home with a backpack in mid-March expecting to be back in a week — and then camp was closed down,'' Wright said during a teleconference with the media. "So I've actually been working remotely from down here in Bradenton. The sun shines a little more right now.

"But I'm just really excited to get back on campus. As things open up and we're allowed to go back to our offices, we'll be moving the family. They're packing things, they're ready to go, finishing school and everyone is just excited to get going, quite honestly. We're all excited to be back in Indiana.''

Wright is part of football royalty in the state of Indiana. His father, Bud, is the all-time winningest high school coach in the state of Indiana, and he's entering his 53rd season at Sheridan High School this fall. Kevin Wright has had a great deal of success himself on Indiana high school sidelines, winning three straight state championships at Warren Central from 2003 to 2005 and another one at Carmel in 2011. He was 44-2 the last four years at IMG, the most prestigious football academy in America, and has had success at the college level, too.

Coming home to work with Allen, a former high school coaching rival back in the day, was a wonderful career move, but it's getting started in the most trying of circumstances. He's a teacher, first and foremost, and he can't wait to do that in person. But Wright and his players have at least managed well in this online world, and he's grateful that he has an attentive bunch in his position group.

"At the end of the day, everybody looks good when we're in the virtual world in a Zoom meeting,'' Wright said with a laugh. "But I really have been excited with the group and how they've responded just being on point. It's really easy when you're at home to be a couple of minutes late or sometimes forget because they were trying to do classwork.''

He hasn't exactly walked in to the easiest of situations, either. His best player, junior-to-be Peyton Hendershot, is dealing with a legal issue after being arrested in February. His case is still working its way through the court system, and he was brought back to the team in a "modified'' fashion last month. Wright didn't want to talk about his situation this week — he'll leave that for Allen, who is scheduled to speak to the media again next week —but he's been glad that others got more opportunities in his absence. 

"I was really concerned with spring because of the lack of depth that we'd have through 15 practices, and getting done what we wanted to get done,'' Wright said. "But they all got a lot of quality reps, and I felt like we came out of it having a good idea of where we're at.''

Indiana has some experience behind Hendershot in versatile guys like Matt Bjorson, Gary Cooper, T.J. Ivy and others, and added to that room last week as well, signing graduate transfer Khameron Taylor from South Alabama. He's big — 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds — and is an excellent blocker, a skill set that Indiana could use in that room. The Hoosiers struggled at times in short-yardage situations, and Taylor could help there. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

"We're adding to the mix. I think that provides more depth as well,'' Wright said of the Taylor signing. "So I feel pretty good about where we're at going into the summer really, and we'll see how it plays out once we're able to get pads on and get to practice.''

Wright likes what he sees in Taylor and can't wait to meet him in person. All their conversations thus far have been on the phone or in a virtual chat.

"You're looking for a guy that's going to fit needs, and I think that's what we've found in Kham,'' Wright said. "He was a guy that had predominately been a blocker in the offense he was in (at South Alabama), but he also is a really good athlete who has the potential to catch the football.

"Don't get me wrong, he's going to have to block, but I think you'll see some of the athleticism that, when you watch the tape, you see,'' Wright said. "I think as far as fitting into our room, he fits as the guy that has that hybrid ability. He's probably a little bit bigger than some of the guys in the room. I also think you really can't replace experience. Quite honestly, you can't replace game-time experience and that's the advantage of bringing in someone like Kham, who's a grad transfer, who's played a lot of college football. I don't think the lights are going to be too bright for him.''

Nor will they be too bright for Wright, who's thrilled to be back in a college environment, especially with Allen here in Bloomington. It's the perfect fit, which was all he could ever ask for when making the jump back into the college game.

“You kind of get a feel for what programs are like and what you can be a part of and what might draw you to make that move,” Wright said of leaving IMG for Indiana. “I just really felt like with Coach Allen — and also knowing some other guys on the staff — if I was going to leave the situation I was in, it would have to be a situation where the culture and what they’re trying to build was going to be something special.

“I hear Coach Allen talk about growing up in the state of Indiana and his love for the state of Indiana, and I’m the same way.”

Yes, indeed. It's good to be home — one of these days.

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