, Newburyport, MA

October 2, 2013

Military men on the gridiron

Wright, Lawler play key roles for Mass Maritime football

By Jim Sullivan

---- — They say, once a Clipper, always a Clipper, and two Newburyport childhood friends, Jonnie Wright and Tim Lawler, are proving that adage at Massachusetts Maritime these days, helping the Buccaneers to a 2-1 season so far.

“He’s probably the first guy to pick me up when I score,” Wright said of Lawler. “And with him, he really picks me up.”

Graduates of the NHS Class of 2011, Wright, a wide receiver, and Lawler, a left tackle, have been friends since preschool and have played together since youth football, culminating in their 6-3 senior season on the Clippers’ 2010 varsity squad.

When that school year ended, Lawler figured they would end up going their separate ways.

“I didn’t know that Jonnie was the Mass Maritime type,” Lawler said of Wright. “I didn’t even know he was looking at the school.”

Indeed Wright was, and has done very well for himself, playing wide receiver for the Bucs since his freshman year when he had 20 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns in the last five games of the season.

Wright then racked up 25 catches for 500 yards and four touchdowns in his sophomore year, and is currently sitting on seven catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns three games into the current season. The Bucs boast the second leading offense in NCAA Division 3, averaging 549 yards a game.

“This year, we’ve got great skills,” said the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Wright. “We run a very fast-paced offense. So we rotate pretty easily in a 2-1 series. We’ve got unbelievable skills all the way around. Our backup quarterback (Johnny “Red Zone” Trudel) has probably got 13 touchdowns this season.”

And while Wright is racking up all those points, his friend is hopefully as far away from him as possible, protecting the QB.

“No glory, just getting the job done,” Lawler said of playing left tackle. “If you do it right, you get no recognition. If you do it wrong, you’re going to hear from everybody.”

Playing on the O-Line is nothing new for the 6-foot-6, 265-pound junior.

“I’ve been big my whole life, so they always just stuck me on the lines,” said Lawler. “But I love it. I love being on the O-Line. At my school now, all the kids on the O-Line call ourselves ‘The Zoo.’ We all have our own nicknames and stuff. Mine is T-Rex. (But) I hope I stop growing, I’m sick of hitting my head on stuff.”

“I take too many pictures with him,” Wright laughed of his oversized friend. “He makes me look real small.”

The Buccaneers started off the season hot, defeating both New York and Maine Maritimes, but faltered in their first league game with a 64-63 loss at Worcester State last weekend.

“After a league loss like that, you really can’t lose any more league games,” said Wright. “Because we have league games for the rest of the way out. With the new league that we are in, there are no more automatic berths. So, you’ve got to win out.”

If all else fails, the two former Clippers can fall back on what they learned at home.

“They taught us how to get the job done,” Wright said of his high school coaches. “That’s where they taught us — how to work hard. If you can work hard, you can get past anybody.”

The pregame ritual is also something both players have brought with them from Newburyport.

“We’ve been doing the same thing since high school,” said Lawler. “Before every game, we’re always pounding each other and giving each other high fives. And every time he makes a catch down the field, I’m always the first one down there telling him that he did a good job.”

Lawler also said that shared experience helped himself and Wright when they went on their first tour as cadets through Costa Rica, Ecuador and St. Thomas during their freshman year.

“It wasn’t a hard transition because I’m pretty OK with talking to people,” Lawler said of going from Newburyport to the rest of the world. “It’s the same for Jonnie. I feel like, being from a small town, everyone is pretty close-knit, so I feel like we were more open to it than being from a large city. It’s kind of more, we know we’re from a small town so we’re nicer. We know not to pick fights with anyone.”

The Newburyport tandem

Name: Jonathon Wright

Team: Massachusetts Maritime

Sport: Football

Position: Wide receiver

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 180 pounds

Stats: 7 catches, 150 yards, 2 TD

Name: Tim Lawler

Team: Massachusetts Maritime

Sport: Football

Position: Offensive tackle

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 265 pounds

Stats: Anchors line for offense that averages 549 yards per game.