Isaiah Wright can't wait to return to his home state. A year ago, the Temple freshman was competing for Kingswood-Oxford High in West Hartford, Conn.
On Friday night, Wright will return when Temple (6-3, 4-1 American Athletic Conference) visits UConn (3-6, 1-5). If Temple wins its final three games, against UConn, Tulane, and East Carolina, the Owls will earn their second straight AAC East Division title.
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Wright has made a sizable contribution in a variety of positions. He has been used as a receiver, running back, and Wildcat quarterback. Wright has rushed for 174 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He also has two receptions for 11 yards.
In Temple's biggest win of the season, a 46-30 victory over South Florida on Oct. 21, Wright had a season-high 58 rushing yards on just six carries.
"The feeling is amazing," Wright said about Friday's homecoming. He could have used that same term to describe his rapid development. The strength of Temple's offense is its ground game with senior Jahad Thomas and sophomore Ryquell Armstead, who have combined for 1,238 yards rushing (5.8 average) and 20 touchdowns. Yet coach Matt Rhule has continued to find ways to get Wright the ball as well.
"Isaiah is going to be a special player," Rhule said. "He is unbelievably mature."
Rhule said Wright's dedication to his craft has helped him get playing time early in his career.
"He does everything we ask and you can coach him hard," Rhule said. "He is willing to play two or three positions and spend the time it takes to learn that, and that is why we are able to be creative at times to get the ball in his hands."
Sometimes, Wright admitted, it's been a bit overwhelming, going from playing high school football at this time last year to becoming an ever-growing part of the Owls offense.
"The feeling is surreal," he said. "I never imagined being in college and I only dreamed of it, and now to be living that dream feels great.
"A lot of freshmen don't get the opportunity I have to be stepping on the field. It is a blessing and a testament to the work I have put in."
Wright said several relatives and friends will be at the game. "The support is going to be tremendous," he said.
He will also have a relative on the other side of the field. Arkeel Newsome, a junior running back at UConn, is his cousin. The 5-foot-7, 185-pound Newsome is one of the Huskies' main offensive threats with 528 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
Wright said that the two talk all the time but that there has been no good-natured trash-talking. "We keep it cordial," he said, laughing.
There was never a doubt in Wright's mind that he would make an immediate contribution.
"I feel I had the tenacity and I am just motivated to do more and I am always hungry, so that is why" he's playing immediately, Wright said.
Temple has a bye after this week. Wright has requested permission to stay in his home state for a few days.
"He comes from a wonderful family and has a tremendous support network," Rhule said. "I know they will be excited to have him come home."