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Wright Joins Football Staff as Defensive Ends Coach

Wright Joins Football Staff as Defensive Ends Coach

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — University of Miami head football coach Mario Cristobal Tuesday announced the hiring of Rod Wright as the Hurricanes’ defensive ends coach.

Wright arrives in Coral Gables after spending the past three years (2019-2021) on the coaching staff at UTSA. A Houston native, Wright spent the 2021 season as the Roadrunners’ co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach.

Wright was UTSA’s defensive line coach in 2019 and promoted to run game coordinator / defense line coach in 2020.

Wright spent four seasons in the NFL after a standout career at the University of Texas, including three seasons with the Miami Dolphins (2006-2008), before embarking on his coaching career.

“I’m fired up to add Rod Wright to our defensive staff,” Cristobal said. “The Hurricanes are committed to dominating in the trenches, and Coach Wright will be a gamechanger for our defense. His career in the NFL and his college coaching experience have helped mold him into one of the nation’s top developers of talent and best recruiters. He will make an impact on our program’s identity when it comes to mental and physical toughness, and I’m excited to watch him elevate our culture.”

“I’m extremely excited to be here. To be able to join a program with the tradition of being a national champion and a big-time powerhouse football place like this, I was honored to even be considered as somebody that was deserving to be here,” Wright said. “Coach Cristobal being interested at all was humbling. Knowing who he is as a head coach and the staff that he has put together, it has been an honor to join this place.”

Wright played a key role for a staff that led the Roadrunners to a 12-2 finish a season ago. UTSA ranked No. 14 in the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 114.7 yards per game, en route to one of the best finishes in school history last season. Four of the Roadrunners’ defensive linemen earned all-conference recognition, headlined by senior defensive tackle Jaylon Haynes, who was selected to the All-Conference USA Second Team.

In 2020, Wright helped coordinate the UTSA defense during the last two months of the season. UTSA led C-USA in sacks (25), tackles for loss (85), interceptions (11), takeaways (19) and turnover margin (+7). In fact, the Roadrunners ranked in the top 30 nationally in five categories — 19th in turnovers gained, 23rd in passes intercepted, 25th in fumbles recovered (8), 26th in turnover margin and 29th in tackles for loss per game (7.1).

Three of his defensive linemen — Haynes, Lorenzo Dantzler and Brandon Matterson — earned honorable mention all-conference recognition, while Christian Clayton was named to the 2020 C-USA All-Freshman Team.

In his first year with the Roadrunners, Wright’s defensive line helped UTSA break three of the program’s single-season records and one single-game mark. The defense shattered the previous standard for tackles for loss in a season with 96 and also set new marks for sacks (2.2) and tackles for loss (8.0) per game. UTSA led Conference USA and ranked sixth nationally in tackles for loss per game. The Roadrunners also eclipsed the program’s single-game TFL standard with 12 in the season finale against Louisiana Tech. Three of his defensive linemen — defensive ends Eric Banks and Jarrod Carter-McLin, as well as Haynes — were named honorable mention All-Conference USA.

Wright, a former All-America defensive lineman at Texas, came to San Antonio from East Carolina, where he was the Pirates’ defensive line coach for the 2018 season. The defense broke the American Athletic Conference (AAC) single-game record for tackles for loss with 15 against Old Dominion and eclipsed the school and league single-season marks with 105 TFL that season.

Under his tutelage at ECU, defensive end Nate Harvey was named AAC Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-conference after posting 63 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Harvey broke the school and AAC single-season TFL record and also matched set the conference single-season sacks standard in 2018.

Prior to his time at East Carolina, Wright spent four years at Sam Houston State. During his tenure, the Bearkats posted a 46-12 overall record, a 31-4 Southland Conference mark, reached the semifinals of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs three times and the quarterfinals in another year. He also helped Sam Houston State to a pair of conference titles and top-five national ranking all four seasons.

Under Wright’s tutelage, Sam Houston State defensive lineman P.J. Hall earned a spot on more than 10 All-America teams, including the Associated Press squad. He was a three-time finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, which is symbolic of FCS Defensive Player-of-the-Year honors. He ranked among the nation’s top 10 with 19.0 tackles for loss as a senior and finished his career with a school- and FCS-record 84.0 TFLs before being selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Wright was invited to participate in the prestigious NFL Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship during the summers of 2016 and ‘17, observing and learning in camp with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, respectively.

Prior to joining the Sam Houston State staff in February 2014, Wright worked a combined three seasons as a student assistant and defensive special assistant for Texas beginning in 2011.

A standout defensive lineman for Texas from 2002 to 2005, Wright collected All-America and All-Big 12 honors played a key role to help UT capture the 2005 BCS National Championship at the Rose Bowl. In all, he enjoyed seven bowl appearances as either a player or coach while with the Longhorns. He was named 2002 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and was a first-team selection for both the Football Writers Association of America and Sporting News Freshman All-America units.

Wright was a two-time winner of the Longhorns’ Outstanding Defensive Lineman Award in 2003 and ‘04 and he earned all-conference honors in each of his final three seasons. He was a Lombardi Award finalist and an AP and Walter Camp First-Team All-American in 2005.

Drafted by the Miami Dolphins, Wright played four years in the NFL for the Dolphins. He later suited up for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League and the Dallas Vigilantes of the Arena Football League. As a prep athlete at Alief Hastings High School in Houston, he was a Parade All-American and an all-state performer.

Wright earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Texas in 2011.  Wright and his wife, Kara, were married in 2019. He has three sons, Elijah and twins Kendrique and Kamden.