VIDEO: Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame’s Willie ‘Ric-Rac’ Wright Magical On Field, Court
By Maria Sonnenberg // January 29, 2019
Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame
ABOVE VIDEO: Many years have passed since Wille “Ric-Rac” Wright attended the African-American only Monroe High School in the early 1960s, but his former coach says watching Wright on the field and the basketball court was magical.
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‘One of the Best Running Backs I’ve Ever Seen’ – Coach Dick Blake
‘BORN TOO SOON’
A child’s game that has never grown old is Ric-Rac, the one-person paddleboard game with the paddle attached to the ball via an elastic string.
The little attached ball can go incredibly fast and in unexpected directions, given half a chance.
Like the game for which he was named, Willie “Ric-Rac” Wright as a high school athlete was nimble and moved in unpredictable ways.
“He is the only player I’ve ever known who could run at 50 miles an hour, stop on a dime and take off at 50 miles an hour in the opposite direction,” said Rockledge Councilman Richard Blake, who once was Wright’s football and basketball coach at Cocoa’s Monroe High School.
Many years have passed since Wright attended Monroe in the early 60s, but Blake still remembers fondly his star athlete.
“He had the strength, the size and the speed,” said Blake. “He had all the credentials.”
Blake was fortunate to coach many talented players, but even after decades have passed, Wright remains at the top. If Wright had a fault, however, it was the timing of his birth.
“Ric-Rac was born too soon,” said Blake. “These days, all the great schools like Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and University of Florida would have been all over him, because he was that good.”
Unfortunately, Wright grew up in the 50s and 60s, when segregation was part of the daily routine. White students went to Cocoa High School, while African-American kids attended Monroe High School, where Blake first discovered Wright.
“Ric-Rac, as good as he was, couldn’t attend Cocoa High because he was black,” said Blake.
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While the adults tried to keep the two races apart, the kids often practiced integration on their own time.
“The funny part is that the white kids and the black kids would get together on weekends to play football in the city playground, but come Monday morning, everybody went to their separate schools,” said Blake.
To Blake, watching Wright on the field and the basketball court at times seemed magical.
“He was one of the best running backs I’ve ever seen,” said Blake, who is still in awe when he recounts the time Wright scored five touchdowns in one game.
Football wasn’t the only sport for Ric-Rac. “He was also excellent at basketball,” said Blake.
When Wright graduated from high school, there were no college scouts ready to sign him. Florida schools of higher education were notorious for their segregationist policies, so Wright headed for the Army, and afterwards, a stint with the Daytona Sharks.
“At that time, there were very few blacks who made it to the NFL,” said Blake.
“I don’t doubt that if Ric-Rac had been born a little later, he would have made it to the NFL.”
Though decades have passed, people still remember Ric-Rac.
“People in this area, no matter if they’re black or white, still talk about him,” said Blake.
“My son, who played football for the Miami Dolphins, used to ask me if Ric-Rac walked on water because I talked so highly of him. I’ve seen the very best of players, and Ric-Rac was up there with the best. God blessed him with so much talent.”
THE 2019 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 10 with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m. – and dinner and ceremony at 7 p.m.
TO MAKE A NOMINATION to the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2019 call 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com
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