Wright switches jersey number to honor memory of his sister

Colorado Mesa defensive end Connor Wright switched his jersey number from 99 to 7 for his senior year. Wright made the switch to honor his older sister, Toni, who died nearly six years ago in a car accident.

Defensive ends usually wear a high jersey number, but Colorado Mesa University’s Connor Wright wanted to wear No. 7.

It has nothing to do with John Elway.

It has to do with his older sister, Toni, who was killed in a car accident nearly six years ago.

She came home one weekend to watch Connor play in his homecoming football game at Wheat Ridge High School. The following Monday, she was on her way back to school when she was killed in a two-car accident.

She was 19 years old and attending North Platte (Neb.) Community College, now Mid-Plains Community College, on a softball scholarship. She would be 25 now.

The junior college retired her No. 7 jersey.

“I’ve been thinking about wearing No. 7 for a long time,” Connor Wright said. “I wanted to do it last year, but I didn’t have enough pull for it.

“Mainly, I wanted my last number to be her last number. When people see me, I want them to think of her. I want everyone to see what she was about, a very hard worker and a great teammate.”

Mesa football coach Joe Ramunno gladly let him exchange his No. 99 for No. 7. Wright, a senior, will wear that jersey again Saturday when the Mavericks play Dixie State (Utah) College at 6 p.m. in St. George, Utah.

“It’s pretty cool what he has done,” Ramunno said. “I’m really proud of him. He’s got the right temperament and right attitude. He’s going to give you 100 percent every down. That’s what makes him so special.”

Toni Wright was more than Connor’s big sister. She was his best friend.

“She was all-go from the beginning. She took a huge responsibility on her shoulders. She was never a captain, but she didn’t like the glory side,” Connor said. “She wasn’t very vocal, but a leader. She could have a great game, but if the team lost, everything was not good. She always wanted to help.

“She played football up until high school. She almost played for the high school team. She fell in love with softball. She played baseball and football up until high school. She was a good enough athlete to play with the boys.”

Wright admitted Toni playfully beat up on him when they were younger, pointing to his nose as an example.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “You see this bump right here? We were wrestling in the front yard and I tackled her. She got up, swung around and broke my nose by accident. She’s a great sister to have growing up. We were best friends and each other’s biggest fans.

“She was the best of both worlds. Me and my half-sister, Amanda, weren’t close growing up because of our age difference (six years), but (Toni) was a great median between us. She could play sports with me all day, then go shopping and do the girly stuff with Amanda. I can’t sing her praises enough.”

Ramunno said Wright has become a hard-working player and leader like his sister.

“He’s become a very good football player,” Ramunno said. “He knows down and distance. The one thing that always surfaces with Connor is his motor. He’s always going.

“He’s got good technique. He’s not a huge guy (250 pounds), but he does well at what he’s doing. He knows how to set things up, too.”

Wright’s parents watched him debut the No. 7 last weekend against Humboldt State (Calif.) University.

Although the Mavericks lost, Wright played well, leading the team with 11 tackles, including 11⁄2 for lost yardage.

“I’ve never been more excited for a game in my life,” he said. “It was intense. Senior year you give a little bit more. I don’t go on from here. ... Well, maybe, but I’m not worried about that.”


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