It was only his first play in an actual NFL game, but it was a big one.
On the 5th play of the Vikings opening drive, facing a 3rd down and six yards from their own 45 yard line, Christian Ponder side stepped in the pocket and looked for rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright streaking down the middle of the field. Ponder heaved the ball and – while under thrown – had it drop into Wright's hands before he was tackled at the one yard line. It added up to Wright's first NFL play, first NFL reception, and soon after, his first NFL touchdown as he caught a pass that put the Vikings up 7-0.
And despite this strong debut, despite the Vikings having shown no other players outside of the injured Percy Harvin who can stretch the field, any other forms of legitimate offense, a semblance of a passing game, and even with the next game the Vikings play being Wright's 23rd birthday, head coach Leslie Frazier remains unimpressed, saying it will "be week-to-week with some guys … [and] it probably won't be any different with Jarius."
That, and it's just Jarius Wright's type of luck.
It's been a long season for Jarius. After being drafted by the Vikings in 2012, he later discovered that his childhood friend and college teammate from Arkansas would be making the trip up north with him, as receiver Greg Childs was also drafted to accompany Wright to Minnesota. Yet it was barely into the season when Childs came down awkwardly on his knees, tearing ligaments in both of them and landing him on injured reserve. For Wright it was a case of good guy, bad luck – His childhood friend gets drafted with him to an NFL team, his childhood friend destroys both his legs.
The trouble didn't stop there though. After finally seeing some experience on the field during the preseason in enough limited action to whet the appetite of curious fans, Wright found himself injured and unfit for active roster space when the regular season opened. "Put in weeks of dedicated training, injure self in last preseason game." More bad luck for the nice guy.
Once Wright found himself healthy enough to get back on the practice field, things didn't get any easier for this rookie learning the ropes. He rarely would get to work with the first team offense to better perfect his craft, and was instead stuck attempting to catch passes from Joe Webb of McLeod Bethel-Thompson on the scout team. Despite making the occasional play and still holding fan interest, Wright was overlooked. Percy Harvin had begun to truly shine during the beginning of the NFL season and was getting early season MVP consideration. Wright was an almost identical style of player to Harvin, both players listed as under six feet and weighing around 180 pounds. Once again, it was more black cats and broken mirrors for Jarius Wright. "Healthy enough to play, competing with best receiver in the league."
But Wright was offered an olive branch by the gods, and shown good fortune this last week. While no one ever wants to see a great player like Percy Harvin get such an injury that it prevents him from playing, that is exactly what happened when the Vikings played the Lions. With this opportunity, the coaches had little choice but to put Jarius on the field, and he delivered. He showed he could be a working cog in this offense and that he was a dynamic enough play maker to cause match up problems with other NFL teams. Yet despite his stroke of fortune, it was just as quickly yanked away from him. "Plays well in first NFL game, head coach unimpressed."
And now Wright's birthday is on the horizon. When the Vikings return from their bye week on November 25th, it will be Jarius' 23rd birthday. Chances are that Percy Harvin will be back in the roster by then, and the coaches will have to make the decision on whether or not they want Wright on the field. While it would seemingly make sense to get any and all play makers you have for the game, nothing is every so easy in Jarius Wright's world. Whether or not he'll end up with a great birthday present remains to be seen, but if the past is any indication of the future, I think we all know what is coming …