“Oh my gosh.”
Larry Muir, the veteran football coach at Valencia High, blurted out his reaction two summers ago after getting his first real glimpse at Mykael Wright, who was playing cornerback and receiver.
It was a passing competition against City Section power Narbonne, which is known for producing athletes with speed.
Wright, who had missed his freshman season after transferring from Antelope Valley, made an interception against one of the Gauchos’ talented receivers. Then he caught a touchdown pass. Suddenly, Wright was no longer an “unknown talent” on the Valencia roster.
“That’s when you realized this guy is on a different level,” Muir said.
Wright missed the first two games of his sophomore season while waiting to become eligible. Once he got onto the field, it was ooh-and-aah time. He displayed terrific catch-up speed at cornerback, making him difficult to beat on deep balls. He had seven interceptions. On offense, he was a big-play weapon, averaging 21.6 yards per catch and making eight touchdown receptions.
At 5 feet 11, 175 pounds, the 16-year-old junior has a chance to become Valencia’s next top football achiever in the mold of Shane Vereen, Brock Vereen and Tedric Thompson, all of whom advanced to college and the NFL.
“The great thing about Mykael is he works in the weight room now and understands that work has to be put in,” Muir said.
Muir said he knew nothing about Wright when he arrived at the outset of the 2015 season. Wright’s parents had decided to turn over legal guardianship to family friends Lori and Michael Wikler, social workers whose son was a teammate of Wright’s in youth football.
Wright wasn’t in favor of the move at first, but poor grades, concerns about safety and trust in the Wiklers won out.
“It was a better place to be,” Wright said. “Out here, it’s quiet, not much violence going on. I like it. I’m getting used to it. I stay focused on school and football and try not to worry about other stuff.”
He still talks to his mother or father almost every day.
“He’s a great kid,” Lori Wikler said. “It’s been a good experience for all of us. They have a great core group of friends.”
Wright first caught the attention of Muir with his reluctance to be in the weight room.
“He didn’t like the weight room,” Muir said. “He would do anything not to lift.”
But Wright’s attitude changed, his grades improved, and his comfort level began to stabilize.
“I try to use my talent to the best of my ability,” he said.
Defensive back is one of the strongest positions in Southern California football. Bellflower St. John Bosco might have its best secondary ever with college recruits Chris Steele, Jaiden Woodbey (Ohio State commit), Stephan Blaylock (UCLA commit) and Jake Bailey.
Gardena Serra has heavily-recruited Bryan Addison and Max Williams. Anaheim Servite has Julius Irvin. Mission Viejo has Olaijah Griffin, a UCLA commit.
In summer passing competitions, you could never take a break from watching Wright, because there was no telling when he’d suddenly intervene. In one game, he made a spectacular interception, and on the next play caught a touchdown pass.
Muir is no longer surprised at anything Wright does, but he’ll probably continue to unleash the occasional “Oh my gosh,” because Wright is that kind of impact player.