Rayfield Wright, a hard-hitting and fast-paced attacker on the Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame in five 1970s Super Bowl teams, then suffered from dementia for at least a decade, believing it was the result of repeated blows to the head. , died on Thursday. He was 76 years old.
Pro Football Hall of Fame reported his death and said he had been hospitalized for several days as a result of a convulsion. He did not say where he died.
Wright suffered a number of blows between 1967 and 1979 – “I couldn’t count that many,” he told The New York Times in 2014. Like many former players, he struggled with his memory, cognitive problems, and headaches.
“Sometimes I go into the kitchen and forget why I went there,” he said. “I have had several car accidents due to convulsions. A total of two cars. My memory is not good. There is a great struggle within me. “
With a weight of 6 feet-7 and 255 pounds, Wright had a strong presence on the right tackle, protecting the troubled quarterback Roger Staubach and creating holes in the defensive line for defenders like Calvin Hill, Duane Thomas and Tony Dorsett.
“I love blocking, I love contact,” Wright, who was nicknamed the Big Cat for his athletics, told Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1973. “It’s great to know that your man is moving. There. But the greatest joy of all was to put my man on the ground. I’m on top of him, and the ball carrier is 10 to 15 feet from the field.”
Wright was a first-team All-Pro three times, selected for Pro Bowl for six years in a row and was named to the NFL team throughout the 1970s. In 2006 he was inducted into the Ohio Hall of Fame in Canton.
Carl Eller, one of Wright’s toughest opponents and a member of the Minnesota Vikings’ defense team, told the Associated Press before Wright’s entry: in the afternoon”.
In the 1972 Super Bowl VI, the Cowboys rushed for 252 yards – a Super Bowl record at the time – on their way to a 24-3 victory over the Miami Dolphins. It was one of two Cowboys Super Bowl victories in the 1970s; they also lost three times.
“What we’ve done today is the way you play this game,” Wright told the Dayton Daily News. “Who will control things beforehand, that’s what counts, everything else being the same.”
He added, “We were in control of the line, and that’s it.”
Larry Rayfield Wright was born on August 23, 1945, 35 miles south of Griffin, Georgia, and was raised by his mother, Opel Wright, and a grandmother. A Boy Scout, who was in his eighth grade, recalled learning about Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” and said he was led to believe that life offered him opportunities.
In high school, he excelled in basketball but didn’t make it to the football team until his senior year. He played basketball at Fort Valley State College in Georgia (now the University), averaged 20 points and 21 rebounds in a game and attracted interest from the National Basketball Association of the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings). He was also a free, tight, defensive, and tight end for the football team and was selected by the Dallas as a tight end to the 1967 NFL draft.
“He was a great competitor, talented and intelligent, and he could run; He could get away with playing with a wide receiver, “Gil Brandt, a former Cowboys player staff manager, said in a telephone interview.
Wright was a close replacement for the Cowboys for two seasons, with coach Tom Landry taking the right side to replace the injured Ralph Neely. On his first outing in 1969, he faced Deacon Jones, the dreaded Los Angeles Rams defensive end.
“Hey, boy,” he later recalled Jones’s greeting. “Does your mother know you’re out here?”
“What has my mother got to do with this?” Wright remembered thinking to himself, which distracted him enough at one point to lose concentration when the ball was broken. Jones immediately slammed his huge right hand against Wright’s helmet, and turned his back on his back.
“It was as if a baseball player had just hit me in the head,” he told The Times.
It was probably his first blow, he said, at a time when the NFL did not take serious head trauma and encouraged players to return to action as soon as possible.
Wright continued to play at a high level for most of the next 10 years, until leg problems reduced his effectiveness. He was released by the Cowboys in 1980 and signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, but retired before playing a game with them.
His wife, Di, survived; his daughters, Courtney Minor, Anitra Hernandez and Ariel Wright; his sons, Laray and Larry Jr .; and his brother, Lamar.
In retirement, Wright was a motivational speaker and set up a foundation to help children get a scholarship to go to college.
He was diagnosed with dementia in 2012. That year, he and a group of retired former Cowboys teamed up with thousands of other retired players to file lawsuits related to NFL concussions, accusing the league of repeatedly hiding links between headaches and degenerative brain disease. players.
They were joined in a group trial in a federal court ruling in 2015, and were given payments of up to $ 5 million to individual players with one of the most serious neurological and cognitive impairments.
“I’m scared,” Wright said of his dementia in a 2014 Times interview. “I don’t want this to happen.” Wiping away a tear, he added, “I want to know why this is happening to me.”