Clad in black and orange and with a pen in his right hand, Jake Wright signed the most important signature of his life so far.
On Feb. 4 at Baker High School, Wright, flanked by his parents, Kelli and Dennis, signed a letter of intent to play football at Oregon State University.
By becoming a Beaver, Jake, who’s a senior, not only will fulfill an athletic dream, but he’ll follow in his parents’ academic footsteps by studying at their alma mater in Corvallis.
“It’s something that not everybody gets to experience, it kind of starts to sink in that you are actually going to play at the next level,” Jake Wright said.
Wright has been a three-sport athlete at BHS, moving from the football field to the basketball court and then to the baseball diamond.
But football, where Wright anchored the offensive and defensive lines, is his passion, and the sport he hoped to continue playing in college.
Jason Ramos, Baker’s varsity head coach, has watched Wright progress with pride.
“He came into the program as having a lot of potential, he’s a big kid and is pretty athletic,” Ramos said, “He had the idea he was going to turn into a special football player.”
After his junior season in 2019, when the Bulldogs advanced to the Class 4A quarterfinals, Wright hit the ground running with recruiting.
For an athlete in a relatively small school such as Baker, that can be challenging, said Buell Gonzales Jr., the Baker School District’s athletic director. Some athletes use websites such as Next College Student Athlete to pique the interest of college coaches.
“In a smaller school like Baker, you have to be your own advocate, you have to be willing to go out, you got to listen and you got to be lucky,” Gonzales said.
Wright quickly drew interest, including offers from Western Oregon University and Southern Oregon University.
Figuring it would be a longshot, Wright reached out to Oregon State, a Pac-12 school, via email to express interest in playing for the Beavers.
His lineman coach, Rick Ritter, even had conversations with Beavers recruiters.
The interest was mutual.
OSU offered Wright a chance, but in a different capacity than the two smaller schools.
But as a lifelong Beavers fan, Wright said he didn’t want to miss the chance to play at the Division I level.
“Southern and Western offered me scholarships, and then Oregon State reached out and offered me a preferred walk-on spot, and I couldn’t pass it up,” Wright said.
Although Western and Southern offered Wright a definite spot on their roster, OSU didn’t have an available scholarship.
But even though Wright will have to earn his way onto the Beavers roster, with the possibility of later receiving a scholarship, he’s ready to work hard to achieve that goal.
“I’m super excited to get in there at the end of June, I think my sophomore year I could start maybe seeing the field a little bit,” Wright said.
Although Wright hasn’t played in an official football game since November 2019 — the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the fall 2020 season — he said he’s added 35 pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame since he sent a recruitment film to OSU.
He’s excited to have a chance to play again this spring, even though his final high school season will be shorter than usual.
“The film they looked at last year I was 205 pounds, and I am 240 pounds now,” Wright said. “It’s in my genes to gain weight, both of my brothers put on 20 pounds their senior summer.”
Ramos is confident that Wright will thrive as a preferred walk-on at OSU, being willing to play either offense or defense.
“Jake made that decision, he had a chance to go somewhere else, but he’s got another picture in mind, ‘I’m willing to work, I’m willing to put in the time,’ ” Ramos said. “ ‘It’s not going to happen right away, that’s the reality, but I’m willing to do whatever to have that opportunity’ — that’s his kind of his mindset, and I think he’s going to have a great chance.”
Ramos said he’s proud of Wright, and believes he can inspire the players who follow him at BHS.
“That’s the product we like to turn out here at Baker High School, it’s great for these kids to see our guys to strive to maybe be the next Jake,” Ramos said.
“If you work hard enough, and you do the things you are supposed to do, then that opportunity can present itself,” he said.
Wright isn’t the first Bulldog lineman to find that opportunity in Corvallis.
Grant Johnson, a 2007 BHS graduate, also was a walk-on at Oregon State. Johnson earned a scholarship and was a starting offensive lineman for the Beavers for three seasons.
Johnson and Wright have something else in common — Johnson’s parents, Mark and Heather, are, like Kelli and Dennis Wright, OSU alumni.
Jake Wright plans to head to Corvallis in June. He intends to major in business and hopes to start a family business with his dad in real estate.