AL HAMNIK: Roosevelt football might finally have right man at the wheel

2013-07-30T18:15:00Z 2013-09-16T18:39:19Z AL HAMNIK: Roosevelt football might finally have right man at the wheelAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
July 30, 2013 6:15 pm  • 

Ice Road Truckers on the History Channel makes you dig your finger nails into the seat cushions while praying the sliding 18-wheeler won't roll down a steep mountainside.

Ronald Wright knows the danger involved.

He and his triplet brothers -- Donald and Arnold -- own Wright Trucking in Portage.

Ronald is a steel hauler but has a second job now that also requires much skill and daring -- he's the new football coach at Roosevelt High School.

It takes guts today being the Panthers' fourth head coach since 2008 and attempting to lead a program that's lost 35 of its last 42 games.

Ronald Wright says he's up for the challenge. Wish him luck. He'll need it.

This does not come as breaking news to the 43-year-old Mississippi native, who has a history with region football.

"I used to own a semi-pro team in Gary -- the Great Lakes Wolfpack -- for five years after the Gary Golden Bears," Wright said. "I would take the kids who graduated from high school, work with them, then ship them off to college to give them a second chance."

Wright also coached the Illinois Spartans semi-pro team, spent six years with the Gary Steelers Pop Warner and a year coaching the Hessville Vipers.

Did we mention serving as athletic director at Ambassador Academy (K-8) in Gary and teaching gym for a year? Yes, he did that, too.

"Man, my plan is getting the student body involved. I'm from Friday Night Lights," Wright said. "I need the (Roosevelt) staff and more parents involved.

"Those are the three goals I'm shooting for because all the kids want to do is play basketball all year around."

Ronald Wright says he does not believe in recruiting athletes from other Gary schools and admits having a few who considered transferring to West Side or Bowman Academy.

As for his personal recruiting base, it'll be the high school, Emerson School of Performing Arts and New Tech, which operates out of the Gary Career Center.

"So far, it's been a low number," Wright said of the kids who've come for conditioning. "It's a building year for me. I'm trying to build a program with my name on it. I'm ready for the challenge.

"I started my semi-pro team from scratch and it took off. Five years with no funding, it did pretty good. And a lot of kids went to college."

Wright sounds like a good guy, a caring individual determined to pump new life into Roosevelt football. But he'll need the entire community pulling on the rope together.

On Aug. 17, from noon to 3 p.m., he has scheduled a "Meet and Greet" at Roosevelt with football parents and fans. A scrimmage with Lew Wallace also is planned.

Can he survive, or is the slope too slippery and steep?

Don't know. But I can't think of a better person at the wheel.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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