FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas receiver Jarius Wright didn't see it coming. There was no way he expected it.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas receiver Jarius Wright didn’t see it coming. There was no way he expected it.
When the 2011 season began, Wright was regarded as the deep-play threat in one of the nation’s most talented receiving corps. But with Joe Adams, Greg Childs, Cobi Hamilton and others fighting for catches, Wright had no idea he was about to turn in the most complete season for a receiver in school history.
“I’m just proud,” Wright said. “All my hard work paid off. It’s like studying all night for a test and then you finally take the test and you make a great grade on it. It just shows that hard work pays off.”
Wright will wrap up his record-breaking year, and put the finishing touches on an equally impressive career, when the No. 6 Razorbacks (10-2) play No. 8 Kansas State (10-2) in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 6.
The Warren native enters the game trying to add to the long list of records he already holds, including the school’s single-season mark for receptions (63) and receiving yards (1,029). But he can grab sole possession of the touchdown record, too, if he hauls in a scoring pass from quarterback Tyler Wilson.
Wright, who was named an All-Southeastern Conference performer earlier this month, also can cement his place as Arkansas’ most productive wideouts ever.
He already has the career mark for catches (165) and receiving yards (2,879), holding an edge on Adams in both categories (159 and 2,388, respectively). He also is tied with former Hog Anthony Lucas for second in touchdowns (23), four behind Monk’s total (27).
All are impressive accomplishments. Coach Bobby Petrino said earlier this year they’re well deserved.
“He’s really become a complete receiver for us,” Petrino said after the 49-7 win against Tennessee in November. “His ability to run routes, catch the ball, catch the ball when he’s in tight coverage, run after the catch. I feel like that’s where he’s really improved this year from the previous three. We really rely on him as one of our biggest playmakers.”
Wright has been there for plenty of big moments.
He caught a critical touchdown pass late in the first half at Vanderbilt, helping the Razorbacks set the stage for their second-half comeback. Wright’s 68-yard touchdown catch against Texas A&M helped get the Razorbacks on the scoreboard in a game they trailed 14-0. He got his hands on a pass in the first quarter against LSU, helping Arkansas take a quick 7-0 lead.
Wilson said there has been something special about Wright that has helped him find a connection.
“Jarius, in my opinion has the ability to create ways to get open,” Wilson said earlier this season. “He sees the field and feels his way open. That’s why he gets the ball so much. I know how he can feel the defense. I think that’s why I go his way quite a bit.”
Wright’s most critical moment, though, didn’t even include a reception. It was when he fell on a fumble in the end zone against Texas A&M, helping the Razorbacks tie the game early in the fourth quarter.
It put a cap on a day in which he tied the school’s single-game record with 13 catches and set the mark with 281 receiving yards. The receiving yardage was the second-best performance in SEC history, behind former LSU receiver Josh Reed’s 293-yard game in 2001.
“I definitely look back on the A&M game and think about that all the time,” Wright said. “It basically did shape our year. We could’ve went down from there or it could’ve went up. We worked hard and we fought back and we made the most out of this year.”
Wright can relive the best game of his career in person in a couple of weeks, when the Razorbacks return to Cowboys Stadium for the Cotton Bowl.
He’s looking forward to the opportunity, playing with good friends like Adams and Childs one more time before they had off for the NFL. Wright can’t wait, hoping he and the Razorbacks can “go out in style.”
“I’m proud of myself,” Wright said, taking a brief moment for reflection after practice this week. “Team goals always come first with me. It’s not over, but we’re 10-2 right now and have a chance to finish 11-2 and for me to be able to get my personal goals and then also achieve team goals, I’m just happy.”