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Furman coach Corico Wright a member of the 'Clemson family'

corico wright furman (copy)

Corico Wright, who played linebacker for Clemson from 2009-12, is in his fourth season coaching the secondary at Furman. Wright will visit Memorial Stadium with the Paladins on Sept. 10. Jeremy Fleming/Furman Athletics

CLEMSON — As a Clemson alum, Corico Wright usually gets a little amped when he thinks about “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.”

Wright was there, in those buses, as they circled Memorial Stadium and arrived at the venue’s famous hill. He was there, shoulder to shoulder with teammates, as they gathered around Howard’s Rock and looked out into a buzzing sea of orange in Death Valley.

“You get to the top of the hill in the stadium and it just lights up. Words can’t explain it,” said Wright, now an assistant at Furman, before the Paladins’ matchup with Clemson on Sept. 10.

“Luckily, I’ll be in the press box. I’ll close my eyes and not look.”

Clemson remains a meaningful place to Wright, who arrived to Clemson as Corico Hawkins and played there from 2009-12. He's now in his fourth year coaching the secondary at Furman. 

He was a member of Dabo Swinney’s very first recruiting class, affectionately called his “Dandy Dozen,” which included the likes of quarterback Tajh Boyd, safety Jonathan Meeks, defensive end Malliciah Goodman and offensive linemen Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley. They laid the foundation for an eventual national title-winning program.

Memorial Stadium is where Wright, an undersized linebacker at 5-foot-11, 235 pounds, proved his worth as a player, collecting 200 career tackles. But Clemson is also where Wright grew as a man. He credits one particular “battleground” devotional held by the Tigers’ chaplain at the time, James Trapp, for inspiring him to reconnect with his father and take on his last name.

It's been an interesting journey for Wright, from Clemson to Furman. A decade ago, he figured he was going to become a federal agent after college, partially because Martin Lawrence and Will Smith made it look so cool in the 1995 film Bad Boys. But conversations with Jeff Davis, the head of Clemson’s P.A.W. Journey program, and Woody McCorvey, Swinney’s longtime chief of football administration, convinced him to go into coaching.

“What do you want to do? What do you love doing?” Davis asked Wright. “There are a lot of people who make a boatload of money and aren’t happy.”

The idea of coaching had been in the back of Wright’s mind for a while. As a sophomore, he asked Swinney if he would hire him after his playing career as a grad assistant. Swinney said yes.

Wright jokes that, while Lawrence and Smith were fun to watch on screen, he wasn’t all that comfortable with the idea of being shot at. And Swinney was persistent in pulling him on staff.

After the Tigers’ ACC co-championship season in 2012, Swinney held a grad assistant spot for Wright for at least six months as the linebacker waited for potential playing opportunities as a pro.

“I want you to tell me you don’t want it before I get anyone else,” Swinney told Wright.

Eventually, Wright answered Swinney with a yes.

Wright spent three seasons with the Tigers as a graduate assistant — on the sideline for a national title appearance in 2015 — before he moved on to Murray State for two seasons.

Wright landed at James Madison for a season before heading to Greenville to join Clay Hendrix’s staff at Furman. Working for an FCS program down the road, Wright has been able to drop in at Clemson whenever he wants to pick the brain of Swinney and his staff. Wright can text Swinney and he’ll get a response in a few hours, if not immediately.

“When he says family, the Clemson family, he truly means that,” Wright said. “A lot of coaches, they give lip service to that but there’s very few who are actually putting that into action.”

Swinney's loyalty has been well-documented. This offseason, he promoted from within at both coordinator spots, tabbing longtime assistants Brandon Streeter and Wes Goodwin for those jobs. Plus, Nick Eason returned to his alma mater as defensive line coach this offseason. On the offensive side, running backs coach C.J. Spiller, receivers coach Tyler Grisham, and offensive line coach Thomas Austin all played for Swinney.

Goodwin, in particular, joined the Tigers as a grad assistant in 2009, serving directly under defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Kevin Steele. So Wright and Goodwin started their Clemson journeys together, and they spent plenty of time together in the film room.

“As a player, you are looking for ‘Who can help me get on the field?’ And you know immediately when somebody knows what they are talking about,” Wright said. “It was evident to me with Wesley, he was elite in his ability to dissect plays. That’s one thing about being a coach and being a teacher, you have to make the complex simple.

"Wesley does a phenomenal job of making the complex simple.”

After jumping to the Arizona Cardinals in 2015, and returning to Brent Venables’ side in 2018 as a behind-the-scenes assistant, Goodwin debuted as a defensive coordinator at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 10, 2022 — with Wright standing on the opposite sideline.

Wright has added to his resume in the intervening years, as well. He coached All-American defensive backs at Murray State and JMU, D’Montre Wade and Jimmy Moreland, respectively. At Furman, Wright has mentored seven All-Southern Conference DBs. Wright has grown as a coach, as a teacher, and has aspirations of being a coordinator or head coach one day.

Would he be interested if the alma mater came calling?

“If that opportunity presented itself, I’d have to evaluate it,” Wright said. “It obviously depends on the role. I can’t go back to being a GA, you know?”

He came back as an adversary, for one day only, on Sept. 10. His mission, obviously, was to see if he could help the Paladins find a way to slay the giant. But it’s hard for memories not to come flooding back in a place like Death Valley.

One of Wright’s fondest memories of his time at Clemson was running down the hill his senior year, finding his mother and father in the crowd, sitting together. “They were both smiling and they were both happy,” Wright said, “and they both had tears in their eyes, because they were proud of me.”

For that reason, before the Tigers came flooding down the hill, Wright had a plan.

“I think I’ll be OK until the buses roll around,” Wright said. “When the buses roll around and the guys get on the hill, I may close my eyes a little bit.”

Jon Blau has covered Clemson athletics for The Post and Courier since 2021. A native of South Jersey, he grew up on Rocky marathons and hoagies. To get the latest Clemson sports news, straight to your inbox, subscribe to his newsletter, The Tiger Take.

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