Parris Wright.

Parris Wright has taken an important step in figuring out the attitude it takes to play football at the highest level.

Wright always has played hard, always wanted to make the big play. That still helps motivate him.

“Before every game, I tell myself that I’ve got to lay somebody out,” said Ewing High School’s senior inside linebacker. “I need a big hit, a forced fumble, an interception, a pick six. I want to do it all. I have high goals for myself.”

Wright blossomed into a leader for the Blue Devils, who were 1-7 as of Oct. 28. The team plays its final game of the regular season on Nov. 2 at Pemberton. (Update: Ewing lost to Pemberton, 42-12.)

“After growing up playing Pop Warner with many of his current teammates in Ewing, he spent his freshman year at Willingboro before returning to his roots at the start of his sophomore season.

“Coming in late and securing your position was hard,” Wright said. “I came after summer workouts, after they had their 7-on-7s and scrimmages. It was kind of hard to get a starting spot.”

Then-head coach Drew Besler knew of Wright from Pop Warner, though, and he played Wright considerably as his sophomore season went on. It was the start of another epiphany.

“I was playing running back, but I was getting linebacker reps too,” Wright said. “I didn’t know how much I actually liked defense until I made the transition.”

Quarterback Matteo Rodriguez runs with the ball during a 39-14 home loss to Delran on Oct. 11, 2019.

By junior year, Wright was focusing more heavily on defense. He started last year consistently on a veteran defense.

“Last year, we were surrounded by seniors,” Wright said. “It was nothing but positivity from them. They always encouraged me and told me what I needed to do. I already had a good defensive mindset and leadership mindset. When they left, they already set the standard. The seniors from last year, they got my mind right.”

It’s been a trying start to the year with the tragic death in September of Ewing student Josiah Jeremiah Robison. The athletic complex has been under construction and caused changes to the practice schedule.

“It’s been a disruptive summer,” said new head coach Matt Dalessio. “Our team has navigated it well. We’re younger this year and there’s change in the coaching staff. They’re dealing well with it. I feel like it’s going in the right direction. They’re buying into the vision and the work is being put in. It’s only a matter of time.”

Wright says he feels energized going into his final scholastic season. He’s trying to be a playmaker and leader in a role elevated by the graduation of so many seniors from a year ago.

“This year is different, not only because it’s my last year, but I feel like I have something to prove on defense,” Wright said. “I feel like I have to go out and do what I need to do, not only for myself but for my team. That chip on my shoulder, or me knowing I’m doing it for more than myself makes we want to go even harder this year. I didn’t realize that last year.

Wright has been a strong role model for teammates. He has worked to do his job so that the team will be successful. Wright has also run track and field for EHS, and he is hoping he can continue to play football in college, likely on the defensive side.

“He’s an awesome kid,” Dalessio said. “He has a nose for the ball. I’ve said, I don’t know if this is luck, reading, or talent to know where to go, but he’s getting there. He knows how to get there and make the play. He’s our surest tackler. He’s our most intelligent player football wise. He’s unselfish and says I want to do what I can to help this team.”

Ewing is fortunate that Wright returned to them. He likes being back with players he grew up with, and feels the longstanding bond can help the team progress.

“We always have been together,” Wright said. “We’ve always been close since Pop Warner days so it wasn’t that we didn’t know each other already. It’s a new group of sophomores coming up, but we’re all comfortable with each other. We’re all like brothers.”

He is working to share the lesson of playing together and for each other. As that attitude spreads, the Blue Devils hope to enjoy more growth and success.