Maybe Zach Wright ’16 should find a banquet to attend every night before a Rice football game. Less than 24 hours after attending the Oct. 23 ceremony in which his mother — Holly Jones-Wright ’87 — was inducted into the Rice Athletic Hall of Fame, the junior wide receiver from The Woodlands scripted a cinematic ending to her special weekend.
As Holly Jones, Zach’s mother was a dominant force in women’s basketball for four years, beginning in 1983. She was an immediate starter as a freshman and led the Owls in scoring, something she repeated in each of her four seasons on her way to scoring 1,791 points, the third-highest total in school history. She was a two-time winner of the Hackerman Award as the Owls’ MVP and earned first-team All-Southwest Conference honors in 1987.
Jones-Wright watched her son accept an invitation to attend her alma mater as a walk-on. She saw him make the switch to wide receiver and appear as a reserve for the 2013 Conference USA Champions, then grow into a productive member of the receiver rotation in 2014 before becoming a starter last fall. “One of my greatest joys these days is being able to watch my son play football for Rice,” she said. “Coach David Bailiff took a chance on Zach and fully supported him when he allowed him to walk on to the team back in 2012.”
On that fall Saturday, Jones-Wright was introduced to the crowd of nearly 25,000 fans along with her fellow honorees near the end of the first quarter. The Owls held a 14-0 lead over Army West Point.
Army traded scores with Rice over the next two quarters before tying the game up late in the fourth quarter.
Then, in a driving rain that signaled the arrival of the remnants of Hurricane Patricia to Houston, Wright pulled in a wobbling delivery from quarterback Driphus Jackson ’16 to cap a frantic 75-yard drive in the final two minutes, giving Rice a 38-31 win.
“It was just the ugliest, most beautiful ball I’d ever seen. I thought he’d punted it. I’d almost gotten in the end zone earlier, so I knew I had to get one for Driphus. I happened to be the guy at the end who got the call,” Wright said.
“When Zach made that game–winning catch against Army in the torrential downpour, my first thought was how blessed we were to even be in such a tremendous situation, quickly followed by tears of joy,” Jones–Wright recalled. “I was so happy for Zach, and so happy for our football team. I had many teammates, friends and family that came to town for the festivities, and to enjoy such a fantastic weekend with all of them in such a way, it was almost beyond belief.”
The win was the fourth in a season that would see Rice win only once over the last five games, but for the Wright family, a season record of 5-7 will never diminish what took place on that October day. Said Zach, “I am Holly Wright’s son, and I am proud of it.”
As part of the Rice Athletic Hall of Fame Class for 2015, Jones–Wright’s banner, alongside banners of the other inductees, is currently on display in Rice Stadium.
— CHUCK POOL