DeRickey Wright provides stability and leadership to a young Vanderbilt team looking to improve on a slow start to the season. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
De’Rickey Wright provides stability and leadership to a young Vanderbilt team looking to improve on a slow start to the season. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

De’Rickey Wright: The anchor of the program

In his fourth season donning the Black and Gold, De’Rickey Wright has emerged as a resilient star for the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Every college football team has its pillars. Foundational pieces of sorts, these players represent all it means to be a part of that program. For Vanderbilt, De’Rickey Wright is the epitome of what these cornerstones are. From securing the secondary as a massive looming presence to being a gleeful, supportive teammate, Wright checks all the boxes. Especially during what could be his final year here, Wright has transformed into an athlete capable of uplifting an entire team through any amount of adversity. 

“When I first got here, it was kind of rough,” Wright said. “But just to see the growth from year in to year out, being able to excel, it’s been a blessing in disguise.”

Hailing from Gadsden, Ala., Wright was brilliant in every facet of athletics, gathering varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and tennis. Football was important in his family, with his older cousins and his late mother having attempted to play when she was younger.

Wright was the quarterback of Etowah High School until his junior year when he switched to the defensive side of the ball. He instantly shined at the safety position, amounting 54 tackles, 6 defended passes and 6 interceptions en route to being listed as an all-state and all-region player after his junior season. 

Although he missed most of his senior year due to injury, the 64 defender received offers to play at Vanderbilt, Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, among others. Wright committed to Alabama in March of 2019, before rescinding this decision in favor of Ole Miss. But after a coaching shakeup in Oxford, Wright would make his final commitment to Vanderbilt.

“He [Derek Mason] did a really good job of recruiting me,” Wright said about his ultimate decision to commit to Vanderbilt. “It was just the coaches they had then under coach Mason.”

However, the coaching staff that reeled Wright in would soon be replaced. After his freshman year, a season in which he only saw the field in four games due to injury, current head coach Clark Lea was given the reins of the program. In his sophomore year under new guidance, Wright endured more struggles, missing four games as Vanderbilt finished its 2021 campaign 2-10. Within months of the season ending, Wright entered his name into the transfer portal. Still, in a day and age where transferring is as effortless as ever, Wright opted to stay.

“My relationship with coach Lea,” Wright explained in regard to why he decided to return. “We got closer, and he helped me through some things, especially some hard times. My teammates also cared for me and they did a lot for me.”

This choice paid off, as a culmination of his efforts would be put on display. In the 2022-23 season, Wright played his first full year as a starter and ended the campaign second in the SEC with three interceptions. He also posted 55 tackles and was vital in Vanderbilt pulling off upsets over Kentucky and Florida. From there on, a definite star was made. Recognition was warranted, with Wright being highlighted as one of the Commodores’ best players.

Being named to the Senior Bowl watch list and gaining traction as a possible NFL prospect, the expectations coming into his senior year had become tenfold. Despite that, it seemed like Wright was unfazed by all this new attention. The adversity he faced in his prior years didn’t appear to hinder his progress, rather it motivated him to brand-new heights. 

In the first game of the 2023 season against Hawaii, Wright snagged two interceptions. The first came in the second quarter as he amazed spectators by pulling off a one-foot toe tap in the end zone. The second was at an opportune moment, late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for the Commodores, 35-28

Two weeks later at Wake Forest, he followed up this performance with a career-best 10 tackles, even whilst battling a nagging hamstring injury sustained in the Alabama A&M game. Even then, Wright remains humble, taking notice of his premier production while still putting the team first. 

“Those games were big. I’m just really about the team. I’m glad I was able to help us win against Hawaii. I would give a couple of those picks back to blow them out actually,” Wright said. “But it’s okay. In the Wake game, I felt like I could have made more plays. There were career highs, so [the game] does live somewhere special in my heart, but, I also could’ve done more too.”

Since then, Wright continues to be a subject of high praise from coach Lea, being representative of the grittiness Vanderbilt tries to embody as he battles while not being at 100%. Regardless, Wright acts as a metaphorical anchor for not just the secondary or the defense but a team competing for every last win they can muster. 

Wright, who is leaning towards being available this Saturday, will aim to be a part of Vanderbilt’s herculean effort to knock off No. 23 Missouri at home on Sept. 30.

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About the Contributors
David Hernandez, Lead Sports Analyst
David Hernandez (‘26) is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences double majoring in political science and law, history and society with a minor in communication studies. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can find him playing basketball, catching up on his favorite shows and mourning the tragedy that is New York sports. He can be reached at [email protected].
Lexie Perez, Graphics Director
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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