SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Over four seasons of college football at North Carolina, wide receiver Wallace Wright caught a total of 23 passes.
So, you might wonder, how exactly did Wright catch on in the NFL?
"If you're not a starter, you've got to make the bus some kind of way," Wright said. "One of the first things they tell you as a rookie – and Coach (John) Fox has done it here – is that you need to get in contact with the special teams coach and find out what you can do.
"And if you're going to be out there playing special teams, why not be among the best at it?"
Wright is among the best, considered a serious candidate for the lone Pro Bowl roster spot for special teamers last season as a New York Jet. The Panthers certainly recognized his value, moving to scoop up the free agent in the offseason to shore up their special teams.
Wright lives, eats and breaths special teams – and he never wants that to change – but with 31 catches after nine years of being listed as a wide receiver on college and pro rosters, he really wants to add something else to his diet.
"My goal is to play receiver. I think everybody knows that," Wright said. "In New York, I just wasn't in the right situation there as far as offense was concerned, but I'm getting an opportunity here, and I'm making the most of it.
"I'm making plays whenever I can. If the ball is in the air, it's mine. That's the attitude you've got to take."
So far at training camp, Wright has made his mark along those lines. He's seen some action with the first team in Cam Newton's continued absence, making his presence felt with several impressive grabs.
"I've been pleasantly surprised by the progress he's made as a receiver – his route running, he's definitely a tenacious blocker and his pass receiving skills definitely have impressed me," Fox said. "I knew what we were getting in a special teams player and the kind of football character he has. I think that was pretty well-documented and was something we definitely wanted."
What makes Wright think he can become a consistent factor in the passing game after nearly a decade of not being a big contributor?
Simply put, Wright always has believed in himself.
He said made a smart decision when he changed his mind about college, walking out on a chance to walk on at Florida in favor of North Carolina. Wright said that while a high school teammate of his in Fayetteville, N.C., did go to Florida but never got to play, Wright played as a freshman and beyond, earning a scholarship before his sophomore year.
Wright then signed as an undrafted free agent in 2006 with the Jets, a place where he was able to take his role as a special teams captain with the Tar Heels and turn it into three-plus season stay. He played in every game over the last three seasons, totaling 64 special teams tackles.
Most recently he's decided to join the Panthers, a team with open competition at receiver after Smith.
"It might sound crazy, but I always expected that I would be where I am now," Wright said. "My mom always used to tell me, 'The cream rises to the top,' that hard work always pans out."
If things do work out for Wright at receiver, he stressed that he'll never forsake the specialized role that has allowed him to play football for so long.
"Even if I take valuable snaps on offense, I don't want to stop playing snaps on special teams. I enjoy it that much," Wright said. "There's nothing like being on the kickoff for a big game or taking a kickoff return to the house.
"One of the reasons I came here was to further my role as a receiver, but I'm here to help the team win in any way possible."