Byline: Michael C. Wright
Jaguars defensive end
Q: You graduated from Columbia. How did you wind up playing ball at an Ivy League school as opposed to a traditional football power?
I could've gone to UCLA, Cal and Saint Mary's -- three schools in California. Being from California, I wanted to fly, man. I wanted to spread my wings. I didn't want my mother knocking at my door every day saying, 'Here's cookies and yams.' I just wanted to go somewhere I could grow.
I had a fascination with New York growing up because of this (points up to a stereo that's playing the soundtrack from the movie Breakin'). Beat Street and Breakin', I used to love those movies. Me and my sister [Tiki] used to sit there ... we'd know every line, every dance move, everything about the movies.
I went to Columbia on a recruiting trip, and my coach told me that my local newspaper was the New York Times, with worldwide distribution. If you shine here, there's no excuse for you not to get to the next level. So that was interesting. But beyond that -- I wasn't even trying to make it to the NFL -- this team had been sorry for years. They had a 44-game losing streak. So I figured if I did anything here, I'd make a difference.
I would come back from my recruiting trips, and tell my teachers and counselors that I went to UCLA, and they'd be like, 'Ah, very good.' Then I'd tell them I visited Columbia, and they'd say, 'What? You went to Columbia? Tell me about that.' But the flip side of the coin is I'd tell my boys about Columbia, and they didn't know if it was a school, a country or a town in South Carolina. But I knew that in the long run, it would pay off to have the safety net of an Ivy League education.
Q: Obviously, you're a lucky guy to have been one of the judges of the 2003 Miss Universe Pageant. How was that experience?
Obviously, [Laughs] to be clich, it was an honor. But beyond the honor, I got to take my two best friends to Panama City, Panama, and judge the most beautiful women from every country around the world. But more than that, it was definitely a cultural experience just to be able to learn about so many different talents that exist in different parts of the world.
I saw women that had four degrees ... you know, bachelors, masters, PhDs, doctorates. And they were drop-dead gorgeous. ... It really expanded my scope on the talents of all, and especially women.
In America, sometimes we are told that we have a lock on some of the great things that happen in this world. But not even. I saw some amazing things from people and heard some amazing bios. That was the greatest thing about it all.
Q: A renaissance man like you has to be into poetry. What's your favorite poem?
My favorite poem is Concrete I Miss You Grass [written] by me. [Laughs] I used to do poetry contests.
You're going to think this is funny, but I don't really read other people's poems too much. I appreciate them, though. I used to write these poems through my freshman and sophomore years [at Columbia]. I won like the New York talent competition and stuff, but then I stopped doing it because I just got consumed with other stuff.
Concrete I Miss You Grass is about how hard this life is and how I wish it was easier or softer ... male bravado, you know, being in the locker room, everybody has to be tough. Then you catch them having some wings and a beer, and then everybody's crying. I'm like, 'You're the same dude that was just beating up somebody [on the field].' So, it was about that, man.
That's how I am, man. I've never tried to be the tough guy. I speak from my heart and have an open heart and open mind about things.
Q: Do you write anything other than poetry?
I'm doing a blog now on NBCsports.com every week. You need to check it out. I've just finished my second one.
My first one was on the circus. …