Jaguars News | Jacksonville Jaguars - jaguars.com
JACKSONVILLE - Life comes at you fast in the NFL. Here's how fast it came for Matthew Wright:
He was very much unknown three weeks ago.
He was pretty unknown a few days ago.
"Now, everybody knows who Matt[hew] Wright is," Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer said Monday, the day he announced Wright as the Jaguars' starting kicker.
Meyer made the announcement a day after a 23-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England, Sunday. The victory ended the Jaguars' franchise-record 20-game losing streak and gave Meyer and quarterback Trevor Lawrence their first NFL victory.
It also made Wright, a 25-year-old kicker from Lancaster, Pa. who played collegiately at the University of Central Florida, something of an overnight star.
Wright in his third game kicking for the Jaguars and sixth kicking in the NFL made all three of his field goals in the game. The first, from 40 yards, was the Jaguars' first field goal of the season. The second, from 54 yards, was the longest kick Wright had attempted in the NFL and tied the game 20-20.
The third, from 53 yards, came on the game's final play and gave the Jaguars their first victory in 399 days - since a 27-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 of the 2020 season.
"It feels awesome," Wright said afterward. "Just happy they both went in. Happy I could help the team come out with a win."
Wright said he was confident in the kicks, adding he was less confident shortly after connecting with the 54-yarder. That kick initially sailed well right but drifted back left and squeezed just over the crossbar inside the right upright.
"I actually thought I missed it," Wright said. "I was about ready to walk off the field, and then I saw the O-linemen turn around and they were all happy, so that's when I realized it went in."
Jaguars cornerback Shaquill Griffin, a teammate of Wright's at UCF, worried substantially less, even when Jaguars cornerback Tre Herndon asked before a kick if he thought Wright would make it.
"I said, 'Ice Ice Baby? Oh Yeah, Matty Ice is going to make that. I am not nervous,''' Griffin said with a smile. "Every time I see Matty I have no problem because I know he is going to make it, no doubt in my mind. I had no doubt in my mind. That is Ice Ice Baby and he is going to make it every single time."
His path to his heroic day in London - and to the Jaguars' kicker position - was a long one.
Wright, who initially signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a collegiate free agent following the 2019 NFL Draft, was waived by the Steelers that August. He was selected by the Tampa Bay Vipers in the 2020 XFL Draft and released in training camp the following January.
He re-signed to the Steelers' practice squad in December, playing three games for Pittsburgh that season and converting all four field goals with all seven extra points. He signed with the Detroit Lions this past offseason and was waived on August 10.
The Jaguars signed Wright to the practice squad September 27, a day after kicker Josh Lambo missed two of three extra points. Lambo, who also missed his first three field goals this season, missed practice twice that week for personal reasons. Wright made three of three extra points in his place in a Week 4 loss to Cincinnati.
The pair competed each of the past two weeks, with Wright winning each time. He missed his lone field goal and went one for two on extra points in a Week 5 loss to Tennessee but made all three field goals and both extra points this past Sunday.
He also became the first player in NFL history to make multiple field goals of 50 or more yards in the fourth quarter of a single game, with Lambo - who also made the trip to London - hugging him after the game-winner.
"He's actually been really helpful," Wright said. "There's no bad blood between either of us. We're both here to do the job, and we're just competing, and he's been really helpful actually with everything because he's had quite a long successful career, so he's had some wise words for me."
The maker of history unsurprisingly drew interest immediately after the game, and his background - even beyond his long football journey is intriguing. He worked as an aerospace engineering intern at Lockheed Martin as a senior at UCF, working there full-time after graduation and when not kicking professionally.
"I think he was telling me he was like a software engineer like a month and a half ago, and now he snapped our 20-game losing streak and made the game winner from 52, 53," Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "I don't know. But just crazy. You can't even make it up."
Lawrence was far from the only person around the Jaguars amazed at the story.
"I'm telling you, that was the first time I think I ever heard him speak after the game, and I had to make him speak louder because no one could hear what he said." Meyer said with a smile Monday. "I honestly remember seeing him walking down the hallway, I remember [saying], 'Who's that again?'"
Now, as Meyer put it, everyone knows who Wright is:
The guy who "earned the right to be the starting kicker."