Throwback Thursday (a day late) – Tim Wrightman

As a handful of Bruins make their UCLA debuts on Saturday, Tim Wrightman can’t help but think about his humble beginnings in Westwood.
“It was a little overwhelming – the second game we played, I thought my UCLA career would be over,” Wrightman said. “We played at Kansas and our quarterback started to scramble, and I tried to throw a block for him. This 6-foot-6, 285-pound defensive tackle from Kansas ran over me. Knocked my helmet around, broke my facemask, gave me a stinger. My shoulders hanging down, I mean, I’m literally looking through an earhole.
“I run to the sidelines, I’m dying here, the trainers are working on me, and old Donahue says, ‘Wrightman, you ready to go back in? You ready yet?’ And tight ends brought in the plays, so I run up, get in his face, and I realize that my chin pads were actually gone. I jerk off my helmet … and hit Donahue right in the head, and he falls to his knees. I was sure it was my last hit for UCLA.”
All of these touted UCLA freshmen will have their nerves frayed, their hearts pumping and their palms sweaty. They expect some lumps ahead. They will probably not maim Rick Neuheisel.
But if Wrightman’s career got off to a bumpy start, it ended with a flourish.
Wrightman – who will serve as honorary team captain for Saturday’s season-opener with San Diego State at the Rose Bowl – was a consensus All-American tight end as a senior for UCLA in 1981, finishing his career as the team’s No. 2 all-time receiver with 73 catches.
He went on to fame – a Super Bowl championship with the gregarious 1986 Chicago Bears – and infamy, as the first pick in USFL history. He was named to the UCLA Hall-of Fame and he dated a future Miss USA.
And yet, all that means nothing, he said, without the balance that he has always tried to achieve.
“The thing that I personally take pride in the most is that I’ve always tried to be a balanced person,” Wrightman said. “I was a consensus All-American football player but also an Academic All-American, and I take more pride in that. I can’t respect a football player who runs a 4.2 40 but has a 1.2 GPA. Just like I can’t respect a nuclear physicist who throws like a girl.”
When he talks to UCLA’s players today at 2 p.m., that will be a major part of his conversation.
He strives to reach balance in everything; for as much as he loves his newest project, a bird-hunting getaway in Idaho called the Lazy Bear Ranch, he could never live their year-round. He is a city boy, raised in Southern California, and he can’t imagine not being surrounded by people.
Chief among them, the Bruins and their fans.
“There were people who I remember from 1977 there today,” Wrightman said of his morning, which included a visit to the Westwood Bruin Touchdown Club breakfast. “They’re not fickle like pro fans. That creates a difference in the atmosphere of football.”
That’s where things have changed under Neuheisel, Wrightman said.
In recent years, there was less a focus on the past and more on the present. Old heroes were forgotten, Wrightman said.
Now they are back.
“I took a sabbatical from UCLA just because of the way that the former players were treated,” Wrightman said. “They weren’t really welcomed back. What Rick has done is create an atmosphere that the older guys are going to be honored. That’s a great lesson for these players now. They know they’re not just going to put in their four years of service. They realize they will be cherished.
“It makes me proud to be a Bruin again. I’m tired of hearing the BS that you’re a Bruin for four years and a Trojan for life. Thirty years later, I’m talking about being a Bruin.”

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  • Anonymous

    Go get ‘em, Tim!

  • UB (Ultimate Bruin)

    Nice post, Jon!

    It seems that CRN is doing more to restore the program than just getting better recruits. He is trying to instill a sense of pride and is calling upon the heros of the past to inspire the heros of the future.

    GO BRUINS!

    – UB

  • Trojan Al

    Great post. Good to see this former player coming back home. Good to see Coach Rick learned something from Coach Pete about the value of having former great players welcomed back to the program.

    After all, when you are in the Trojan Family, you are Trojan for Life. It should be the same for Bruins, but as Tim said, it has been that way for a long time. Good luck versus San Diego State.

  • UB (Ultimate Bruin)

    “Trojan for Life” sounds like a life sentence to me.

  • rejn

    Good to see Coach Rick learned something from Coach Pete…???

    Oh my! What an arrogant blankety blankety blank.

  • Anonymous

    “He meant a great deal to this program and will always mean a great deal to this program. He’s a great man and a great leader and he’ll always be a Bruin. As long as I am in charge of this program, we are going to speak of Karl Dorrell in reverent tones.” Coach Neuheisel at his press conference being introduced as the new Bruin Coach

    I give Coach RN respect for this statement, especially in light of Wrightman’s condemning words.

  • Bruin_Bry

    Love, love, love the piece Jon! Much more indept than previous Q&A’s w/ players past and present. And thanks to Tim Wrightman in taking the time to talk about the old glory days.

  • CrouchingBruin

    “I jerk off my helmet … and hit Donahue right in the head, and he falls to his knees.”

    What a hilarious story! I wonder if Coach Donahue remembers that?

  • BruinFaithful

    Trojan Al:

    What a CROCK!!!! Yeah, great job that old Chetey Petey is doing of making Mark Sanchez feeling like a TrOJan for life. By throwing him under the bus on National TV?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcGCMZKniks

  • BruinFaithful

    My sentiments exactly Mr. Wrightman. This echoes what me and Dorrell detractors had been saying for years. Dorrell is an idiot who didn’t understand the value of tapping into the legacies of previous Bruin Lore.

  • True Blue

    In the past I always wondered why there were not more former players on the sidelines. Good for RN.

    I vote for giving mustard and ketchup Al a pass this time. Tweet Carroll is having a rebuilding year. Can’t wait to the the true blue and gold uniforms in the Coliseum later this year for the first time in a long time.