Football has been the focus of Kenyatta Wright’s life since he was a linebacker with the Vian High School Wolverines, but today he is making tackles on a different kind of playing field.
As an area director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Wright is blending his football strategies with scripture and his philosophy of life that “faith never fails.”
A God-centered life is not new to Wright. Growing up, he was active in church groups, while playing football and baseball, fishing and hunting. He graduated from Vian High School in 1996 and headed for Oklahoma State University, where he played football on a scholarship.
He remembers those early college days with mixed emotions.
“At that time, I thought I was better than I really was,” he said. “I was self-centered. Our culture opens doors for athletes to be that way. ”
A ticket for driving under the influence when he was an OSU sophomore was a wake-up call for Wright. He had learned at an FCA gathering that “you can feel morally okay, but if you have no relationship with God you remain empty.”
“My girlfriend at the time, Amber, now my wife, was already a Christian and knew I felt an emptiness,” Wright said. “She told me football and all the accolades were not enough to fill the void in my life.”
An event at the University of Oklahoma FCA Camp he attended with John Talley changed Wright’s focus from himself to God.
“I learned that Christ can fill that void,” Wright said. “It gave me an overall vision to be obedient to God every day to see what God has in store for me.”
Amber and Kenyatta were married in 1999, their senior year in college, at the famous glass chapel in the woods near Eureka Springs, Ark.
“We were so poor we had to put the wedding on a credit card,” he said, and laughed. “We had very humble beginnings.”
By the time he was signed by the Buffalo Bills in 2000, God was a constant companion on Wright’s playing field.
He spent time playing for the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets from 2000 to 2007, officially retiring after the 2007 season.
“As a kid it was my dream to be in the NFL. It was the pinnacle of sports and very gratifying,” he said.
He considers his most memorable experience being able to have his wife, a son and daughter with him at the Buffalo Bills’ training camp during his second year in the NFL.
He might still be in the NFL, but numerous injuries and family stability changed his life focus and outlook.
“I’m a country boy. I didn’t like living in New York City,” he said.
“Our children were in elementary school and honoring my family time prompted us to return to Oklahoma.”
The family settled in Tahlequah, but his friendship and respect for Derald Glover, Fort Gibson superintendent of schools, drew him to Fort Gibson. Then, coach James Singleton invited him to help coach football. The invitation from John Odell to be an FCA area director came last July.
“It is a great opportunity for me,” Wright said.
His huddles with students and coaches offer devotional strategies for life.
“My job is to give the leaders tools, resources and support for life,” Wright said. “I’m not a locker room preacher but their platform can be athletics. They have to see Christ in me. My vision is to challenge the coaches and athletes to use their influence for Christ.”
Among Wright’s heroes are sports legends Bobby Bowden, Tom Osborn and Calvin Miller, an OSU coach while Wright was a student. He learned the value of consistency and spiritual, mental and physical fitness from them, character traits he and Amber are passing on to Alexis, 15; Elijah, 13; Solomon, 12; and Avery, 8.
“It was important to Amber that the boys have biblical names,” Wright said.
Off the football field, Wright says the family’s “spirituality comes first. We want the children to know that Christ comes first in our lives.”
That philosophy carries over into their screen printing business, Tigers Den, which provides affordable sportswear to surrounding communities.
The holiday shirts featuring scriptures are the firm’s best sellers.
In all of Wright’s endeavors, he lives by a simple motto: “Sin never wins, faith never fails, and Christ will always crown the champion.”