Homestead QB Jiya Wright named News-Sentinel Football Player of the Year
Typically, when a prep quarterback signs with a Division I program, his high school coach is quick to point out how it was something seen in the player for a long time.
Not so with Jiya Wright.
“The honest truth? He didn’t stand out that much,” said Homestead coach Chad Zolman on Wright when the Northern Illinois signee first arrived as a ninth grader. “But with more development, the better he got.”
But with development also came patience. At a program with such a quarterback-rich tradition, as well as capable upperclassmen, Wright had to bide his time.
As a junior, Zolman said that Wright was beginning to feel the itch to start at the varsity level, but Drew Keszei, himself a Division I quarterback now at Ohio University, was the guy.
“Last year, Jiya was a little frustrated that he wasn’t going to start,” Zolman said. “Drew was really good for us, and we had a conversation with Jiya about being ready.”
Turned out, Wright didn’t have to wait long. In the second quarter of the 2016 season opener, Keszei went down with a season-ending injury. Wright replaced Keszei and did not relinquish the starting job for the next 21 games.
Over 5,300 total yards later, including 3,057 yards as a senior leading the Spartans to an 8-2 season, Wright is the 2017 News-Sentinel Football Player of the Year.
“We knew (Wright) was a gifted athlete, and that started to become apparent in his sophomore and junior year,” Zolman said. “To go from being a gifted athlete and a good football player to one of the best around, there’s a lot of work that goes into that. He has taken his gifts and developed them.”
The twist of fate that thrust Wright into the starting lineup as a junior was a positive in many ways for the 6-foot, 195-pounder, although Zolman felt that he could have used another year of seasoning.
“You learn under fire, and he was better as the season went along last year for sure,” Zolman said. “Would he have been as good this year if he didn’t start last year? Maybe not. The experience level was obviously much higher.”
“I was much more comfortable as a senior at quarterback,” Wright said. “Last year, I would kind of take off running a lot more. This year I really started trusting my arm.”
Wright was nearly impossible to contain throughout much of 2017. A true dual-threat quarterback in the read option, he threw for 2,307 yards and 28 touchdowns while rushing for 750 yards and 11 scores. Standout performances included a five-TD, zero-interception performance in a 42-0 rout of Bishop Dwenger and going for 355 total yards in a loss to Snider in Indianapolis in Week 5.
“He was one of the most dynamic players we faced this season,” Snider coach Kurt Tippmann said. “He posed so many dilemmas defensively, along with their scheme, that many times there was not a schematic answer to defend him.”
Now, it will be the job of defenses of the MAC to figure out ways to slow down Wright, who will head to Northern Illinois as a quarterback. A change of position is possible, but after what Wright did over two years at Homestead, why mess with success?
“We look forward to watching him play on Saturday afternoons,” Tippmann said. “I have a feeling he is going to be very successful at Northern Illinois.”