Shortly after the Tennessee Titans selected him in the first round (20th overall) of the 2012 draft on Thursday, wide receiver Kendall Wright offered a clear, concise summary of his abilities.
“I like playing big,” he said. “I’m not a big receiver, but I like playing big.”
Size matters. That is no secret.
There are some sports, though, in which it is more important than others, and Wright, a multifaceted athlete, was smart enough to figure that out.
He started eight games and caught a team-high 50 passes as a true freshman at Baylor University, and then he joined the basketball team, for which he appeared in 13 games. Why? As a high school senior he averaged nearly 24.5 points per game and once had a quadruple-double.
“I like basketball,” he said. “That was my first love, but there are not too many basketball players in the [NBA] that are 5-10, 5-11. I stuck with football.”
He is 5 foot 10. He is small, by professional football standards as well as those of professional basketball.
But with his focus firmly on football, he put up some seriously large numbers over a four-year career that ended with him as the university’s all-time leader in all significant pass receiving categories.
One of his best assets is the ability to turn a short pass into a big gain. He led the nation last season with 19 plays of 25 yards or more, one of which was an 87-yard touchdown against Oklahoma on a pass that was deflected.
“I think his strong point is making plays after the catch, getting himself open and then doing something with the ball after he catches it,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “He has the ability to catch a short ball and turn it into a long run. He can create some things for us on offense.”
Wright is the only Baylor player ever to have more than 200 receiving yards in a single game. He did it twice — last season. He had 208 yards in a victory over Oklahoma and 201 in a contest against Kansas State.
Nine times in 13 games as a senior he topped 100 yards, and for the season he averaged more than 15 yards per reception. His career average is better than 13 yards per catch.
“He’s a guy who is very competitive,” coach Mike Munchak said. “He makes plays. He is fun to watch on tape.”
There is no shortage of wide receivers Wright’s size who have been — and are — productive in the NFL. Guys like New England’s Wes Welker, Carolina’s Steve Smith and Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson do not exactly tower over their opponents or teammates, but their numbers seem to pile up quickly almost every year.
Recently, though, there was a report that said Wright actually had gotten too big. In a pre-draft publication, Pro Football Weekly said he had 16 percent body fat, a claim he vehemently denied.
“This draft thing is crazy,” he said. “I am so glad to be a Tennessee Titan right now. It is crazy. I can’t wait to see what I can help bring to the team. …
“I like running by people or taking a short pass and whatever it is for a long way. I like getting yards after the catch.”
He likes to play basketball too, but a guy his size can only go so far in that game.
“I am aware of his talents on the court, and he is pretty proud of the athlete that he is,” Titans scout John Salge said. “I have never seen him do it, but I have no doubt that he is pretty good.
“The first thing that you notice about Kendall is that on the field he is one of the most competitive football players that I watched this year, and really in the last couple years all together. He is a very competitive football player and he really wants to be good. That is his makeup.”
It helps make up for what he lacks in size.