Oregon true freshman Mykael Wright has earned the nickname “silent assassin” from his teammates. His quiet demeanor, number two jersey and superstar type skills draw the comparison to NBA star Kawhi Leonard. The cornerback lived up to that label in the No. 7 Ducks’ win over USC when he killed USC's momentum and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown with 20 seconds remaining in the first half.
The speedy freshman had only regularly began working as a kick returner earlier that week. However, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal was not shocked when Wright completely transformed the energy of the game. The top-ranked cornerback in the nation (ESPN, 2019) returned punts in high school and provided tape highlights, which Cristobal often refers to. Cristobal instantly noticed Wright’s natural instincts as a returner.
“Naturally, when the ball is in the air, he knows how to get to it,” Cristobal said. "He knows how to handle receivers and handle guys who show late hands. When he’s had the ball in his hands in practice when he gets a pick or something of that nature, he just has a natural feel for following his blockers or setting up his blocks.”
His versatility has provided a solid foundation and a major strength for Oregon. During his two seasons at Valencia high school in California, Wright had nine interceptions and 25 tackles on defense. On offense, he picked up 1,986 receiving yards in addition to 26 touchdowns.
Entering this season, junior starting cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. tabbed Wright as a future freshman All-American. Now, Cristobal is game planning an increased role for Wright.
“Without question, he’s an electrifying player back there,” Cristobal said. “I think the more he does it, the better and better he’ll get. We don’t want to extend him too much because he’s got a lot going on with special teams and playing corner for us, but his role on teams is going to expand.”
The natural playmaker’s next opportunity will come this Saturday night, as Oregon looks to beat Arizona to officially punch its ticket to the Pac-12 Conference title game.