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Chasing a Dream: Scooby Wright facing familiar path to ultimate goal

"Chasing a Dream" is a recurring series on that profiles the rookies and other overlooked players on the roster who have beaten the odds in the past and look to do the same in the NFL.

Don't get Scooby Wright III wrong. The differences between the NFL and college are night-and-day stark, and the rookie linebacker learned that the moment he opened up his new playbook.

It's just that Wright has been here before, metaphorically speaking. He's been on the fringe, overlooked by hundreds of others who were valued higher, whether it's measured by scholarship offers or spots on the draft board.

In an article titled "For Hire: Linebacker Who Can't Wait to Prove You Wrong" for The Players Tribune, Wright laid out this mindset shortly before the 2016 draft.

"Throughout my career, many coaches and teams have overlooked my talents, as if my production on the field was just a fluke. I get it," Wright wrote. "If you see me in street clothes, you might not think I'm the next great NFL linebacker. But when you see me on the field, you'll probably think differently."

Coming out of Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, California, Wright was a two-star prospect with one, relatively last-minute Division I scholarship offer. After three productive, award-winning seasons at the University of Arizona, Wright waited until the final moments of the final day of the 2016 NFL Draft to hear his name called. Projected by some analysts to be a fourth- or fifth-round pick, Wright was selected with the 29th pick in the seventh round, 250th overall, as the final member of Cleveland's record-setting 14-man draft class.

Overlooked at the beginning of his Arizona career, Wright proved he belonged shortly thereafter and finished with a bang. To cap a disappointing, injury-riddled junior season -- which followed a sophomore season in which he won multiple national awards as the country's top defensive player -- Wright returned for the Wildcats' bowl game and put together what he called one of the best games of his career, racking up 15 tackles and two sacks in a 45-37 victory.

His spot in the draft wasn't ideal, and the days and hours leading up his selection at No. 250 overall weren't an experience he wants to relive. But it's one that won't be forgotten anytime soon, just like his status upon enrolling at Arizona wasn't forgotten throughout his incredibly productive three seasons with the Wildcats.

And now, that same motivation lingers amid similar circumstances as Wright tries to carve out a spot on Cleveland's 53-man roster.

"It's not like I can go back and do anything about that," Wright said. "It's definitely in the back of your head when you get tired and you don't feel like doing anything and being lazy. It's extra little motivation to get you going."

The Browns selected linebacker Scooby Wright III with their final pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.

That motivation was present as Wright went through his first NFL offseason program. A new set of hurdles sits in front of him as he competes for a spot in Cleveland's inside linebacker room, which carried four players on the 53-man roster at the start of the 2015 season.

At just his second practice with the team, Wright intercepted fellow rookie Cody Kessler at the team's rookie minicamp practice inside FirstEnergy Stadium. He was promptly welcomed to the Dawg Pound with cheers of "Scooby!" from the fans who toughed out the rainy, chilly weather.

It was one heck of a first impression, a byproduct of simply doing his job rather than trying too hard to impress his new coaches and teammates.

"When you're out there playing football, you're not thinking about how you're going to impress somebody," Wright said. "You just go out there and do what you're asked to do by your coaches and your teammates and play hard and do what you need to do."

Wright is learning the team's "Buck" linebacker position, inside linebackers coach Johnny Holland said last week. He's competing with the likes of veteran Tank Carder, Justin Tuggle and undrafted free agent Dominique Alexander for a chance to once again go from overlooked to impact player on a stage where many didn't expect his story to continue.

Wright is sticking on this side of the country over the next six weeks. His focus is to master Ray Horton's defensive system -- he studies flashcards every night -- and improve his flexibility before training camp begins in late July.

It's the same approach he took to beat the odds at Arizona. Why change now?

"When you're a freshman in college you have to pay your dues and when you're a rookie in the NFL you have to pay your dues just as hard or even harder, I expect," Wright said.

"Just do what I'm asked to do. It's not that hard. If you can play football, you can play football. It's not too complicated."

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