30 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY FEBRUARY 8-14, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com FACE TO FACE Nate Wright is a quiet person. He chuckles softly and in conversation appears humble. In retirement following 23 years as a teacher with the San Diego Unified School District, he moved to Arizona and hunted antiques for a time. This same Nate Wright spent 12 years in the NFL, most of them with the Minnesota Vikings. Twice he was named All-Pro, he played in three Super Bowls and was involved in one of football’s most famous—or infamous, depending on one’s perspective—plays. Wright was born in Florida but moved to Seaside at the age of 15 to live with an older sister after his mother died. He graduated from Monterey High School and played college football at Monterey Peninsula College and San Diego State. So Wright had two careers. One he loved because of his passion for sports, the other because he felt it important to make a difference in the lives of children. And he had that moment in the final seconds of the 1975 NFC playoffs when he fell—or was pushed— while defending Dallas Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson in what became known as “The Hail Mary.” Weekly: What was it like to play in the Super Bowl? Wright: The atmosphere was carnival-like. You’re down there trying to play a game and everyone else is up there enjoying the festivities. Do you watch football? The game is a bit different now. Not as much as I used to. That’s what happens when you’re older. You’re not as attentive as you used to be. I think the guys [today] are bigger and faster. And they have backup quarterbacks who can play. The era I played in you’d be lucky if your backup could go in and win a game. We had guys who would smoke at halftime. Bud [Grant, Vikings head coach] wouldn’t let them smoke in the locker room. They had to go to the bathroom to smoke. I remember watching Minnesota playing in the cold and snow. Man, they used to tell us a story. When you got there, the old guys would grab you and say, “Bud told us to tell you the Eskimo story.” The story went that they were building a pipeline from the rafters but couldn’t find anyone to work. Guys would work 15 minutes then come in out of the cold. Someone said, “Let’s hire some Native Americans.” They worked all day, eight hours. Well, they wondered how these guys could work in the cold. They tested their skin, everything, and there was no difference. The moral of the story is: It’s cold. Get your ass out there. Was it hard to leave the game? The problem with retiring is you can never truly evaluate yourself. You may have lost a step, but your ego plays a big part. Guys think they can still play. I thought that. But you can’t do it anymore. Did you always want to play? We had a trainer, Lou Peresengi—he had been with the Steelers, I think— teaching at Monterey High. One day I was just standing around and he came up to me and said, “One day you could make a lot of money playing in the NFL.” I thought he was crazy, but I guess he saw something. In high school you fantasize about playing in the NFL, but I don’t think it entered my mind. I ended up with more defensive game balls than anyone but Alan Page. What advice do you have for kids who want to play football? Well, I don’t think they should start out too young. There are Pop Warner leagues, but kids shouldn’t play until high school. What happens is, you mature as a person differently. Ability rises by the time you get to high school. How come you didn’t coach much high school ball? I thought I was more knowledgeable. I tried to help the kids, but I didn’t enjoy it like playing. When you play for a team for so long, do you become a fan? I’m a Viking. Always a Viking. We go back for Legends events—last time there were 90 of us—and sit in a box, all the old players. The war stories, everybody’s got a few. That’s the best time to tell them, at reunions. Some I’ve heard 30 times. I met Drew Pearson once. He wrote a note to my brother, who is a Vikings fan: “I did not push Nate Wright, he pushed me. Get over it.” What’s it like to be part of a famous play? That’s all I used to get asked about, everywhere I went [laughs]. But he did push me. Getting It Wright Monterey High graduate Nate Wright played in three Super Bowls, but it was a different era. By Dave Faries “I think I had a successful career,” Nate Wright says of his NFL days. “You always look back at things you could have done differently. But I’m satisfied.” COURTESY MINNESOTA VIKINGS Belle Looking for the Belle of your ball? Then this 8 ½ year-old tabby girl is the one for you! With enchanting green eyes, cute little toes and a pink nose, Belle has it all! She’s an indoor-only cat who doesn’t mind being picked up, adores being petted and brushed, travels well in the car(!), and loves people. Plus, she has lived with other cats and small dogs! Claim this charming beauty before someone else does! If you are interested in Belle, please fill out an adoption application at www.gocatrescue.org. To sponsor our next ad, please call or email goldenoldiescats@gmail.com 831.200.9700 www.gocatrescue.org Olive Want to meet Olive? Please fill out our online adoption questionnaire. Things to love: approx. 8 years old - 18 lbs - female - Shih Tzu Olive’s favorite spot is right next to you in a cozy doggy bed or in your lap for her favorite time of the day: snuggle time! Olive likes other pups but would do best in a home without other pups or with mellow older pups like her. She’s currently undergoing treatment for a mammary mass removal. Ad sponsored by M.B.W.W.C. www.GoWhales.com If you’d like sponsor our next ad, give us a call. 831-718-9122 | www.PeaceOfMindDogRescue.org P.O. Box 51554, Pacific Grove, CA 93950