One more mile.
One more kick.
One more hour of hitting the books.
Every teenager has tough choices to make when it comes to how they spend their time; striking a balance between school, sports, and a social life is hard for any 18 year old kid. And Oakridge senior Mark Wright is no different – but he’s not exactly your typical high school senior, either.
For Wright, like many young men involved in high school football across the state of Texas, the hope is to continue to play the game he loves at the collegiate level. But not just any college – Mark dreams of playing football for West Point. Furthermore, Mark hopes to take on one of the most pressure-packed positions in the game, focusing on being a top-notch kicker for the last six years.
Involved in multiple activities across campus, Mark balances student council, clubs, and extracurriculars with being a valedictorian candidate and a multi-sport starter. The Oakridge School is a preschool through twelfth grade college preparatory school in Arlington that Mark has attended since he was three years old, and his time on campus has instilled a great work ethic, both in the classroom and on the athletic fields. Wright has earned the admiration of his peers and teachers for his focus, dedication, and ability to do so many things well.
“One of the best parts of my job is not only getting to teach some students for all four years, but also getting to teach them in two distinct courses”, Oakridge French and Chemistry teach Marissa Tate said. “I have been blessed to see the tenacity for learning that Mark exhibits in his science and language classes. However, this academic drive and level of responsibility is equally apparent in his determination and commitment on the field, to our student body and as a leader in our community.”
Wright started kicking for the Owls in middle school, when he innocently raised his hand when the coach asked for a volunteer to try. A long time soccer player, the transition to kicking off of a tee felt natural, and he took to the position that would be his for the next six years. When he moved on to high school ball, Wright continued to kick, while also playing linebacker for the JV team. Upon the graduation of the varsity kicker prior to Mark’s sophomore year, he began to take his work more seriously, taking lessons from a kicking coach and working to refine his craft. He has spent the offseason prior to his senior year working on improving his strength and kickoff distance, in between playing varsity soccer and running track for the Owls – where is a very good distance runner that posts sub-5:00 minute miles regularly – as well as attending the University of Texas as part of the Welch Foundation Scholar Project this summer and participating in the Summer Leader Experience at West Point.
Last fall, it was Mark knocking the ball through the uprights in the waning seconds of a rivalry game against Fort Worth Country Day that pushed the Owls towards the playoffs, his first career game winner. Hours of work went into that career-defining moment that lasted just seconds, and in the minutes before he took the field he took the time to reflect on all that he had done to prepare him for the biggest moment of his athletic career.
“Once Country Day scored, I was pretty confident that I was going to have a chance to kick it, so I went to the sideline and started practicing my form to try and stay in the zone,” Wright said. “I wasn’t nervous as I watched my team march down the field, but when we got stopped on third down, I started to feel the pressure a little.”
The Owls did march down the field, getting the ball inside the five yard line with less than ten seconds to play. Oakridge coach Phillip Farhat used his last time out after centering the ball, setting up Wright’s attempt with his team down by two. A teammate grabbed him by the shoulder pads and told him “You’ve got this, Mark”, as he trotted out onto the field and marked his spot 19 yards back from the posts. But a timeout from the opposing sideline delayed his moment.
“They tried to ice me with a timeout right before I was set to kick, but I had been training for this moment for years. I didn’t want to let my teammates, my coaches, or my friends down, so I tried to focus on doing the things I needed to do – and making sure I didn’t miss the ball,” he said, with a bit of a wry smile at the end.
The hours of repetition and practice paid off, and the then junior was mobbed as soon as the ball cleared the crossbar. That singular moment set off a chain of events that have led him to this point this fall – striving to kick at one of the military academies. Mark has received his recommendation to West Point, and is in the final steps of his official acceptance to attend the nation’s premier military academy. He says he’s excited to serve his country, and hopes to walk on the football team and kick for the Black Knights, thus continuing his dream. His high school coach believes he has what it takes. “Mark is intelligent, dependable, and versatile. We ask him to do a lot of things in our kicking game with all of the onside kicks we do. He is very accurate on his place kicking, and he plays outside linebacker for us, showing his flexibility and unselfishness,” Farhat said.
With interviews by Air Force and Navy lined up as well, Wright likely has a military future ahead. Hopefully, one that includes many more game winners, and on a bigger stage. But before that, he will try and help take his Oakridge football team back to the playoffs for a second straight season, one kick at a time.