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GWINNETT GRADS: Norcross' Wright stands out for Western Kentucky

Arius Wright (21) added a big win to his already impressive career at Western Kentucky last weekend with a win over Georgia State in the Georgia dome. The senior and Norcross grad had four tackles, one for a loss, in the victory. (Photo: J.S. Robinson/WKU Athletics)

Arius Wright (21) added a big win to his already impressive career at Western Kentucky last weekend with a win over Georgia State in the Georgia dome. The senior and Norcross grad had four tackles, one for a loss, in the victory. (Photo: J.S. Robinson/WKU Athletics)

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Western Kentucky’s Arius Wright (21) sacks Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron (10) on Sept. 8, 2012, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Wright, a Norcross grad, is wrapping up an impressive career for the Hilltoppers. (Photo: Alex Slitz)

Even with four quality years of college memories, Arius Wright said last weekend was a very special one.

The Western Kentucky senior and Norcross grad had a personal homecoming game at the Georgia Dome, where his Hilltoppers defeated Georgia State. He had four tackles, one for a loss, in the victory.

“I was very excited,” Wright said. “It was my first game in college playing in Georgia. I got to play in front of all my family and friends. I got to play in the Dome again. It was a lot of fun.”

The victory was the latest in an impressive four-year run for Wright, who has played in all 46 games of his college career with 35 starts. He started at cornerback his first three seasons, but shifted to a starting safety this season under new head coach Bobby Petrino.

He has a career-high 39 tackles (four for losses) and an interception for the Hilltoppers (5-4), who play today at Army. He has shown the ability to play all over the secondary during his career, racking up 146 career tackles (107 solos).

“I’ve fine-tuned a lot of things since high school,” said Wright, who is on track to graduate in May. “My footwork is a lot better. I’ve been playing only DB here so I’ve focused on that. In high school, I played a little bit of everything (on offense and defense). I’m better at my footwork, reading the quarterback, just everything.”

Wright aims to finish up his career with more positives, beginning with the matchup vs. Army. A road victory there will help the Hilltoppers become bowl eligible. They played in last year’s Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, their first bowl since transitioning from FCS to FBS competition.

After the season, Wright plans to focus on pro football.

“I’ve been playing football all my life, why stop now?” Wright said. “(Pro football) is the next thing in my head after I graduate. That’s the first thing on my mind. I want to give that a shot.”

FOOTBALL

Cox wins fourth SoCon award

Marcus Cox won his fourth Southern Conference freshman of the week award Monday after just seven starts this season for Appalachian State.

The Dacula grad rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns in last weekend’s 35-28 loss to first-place Chattanooga. It was his third straight 100-yard rushing game.

Cox now leads the SoCon with 857 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns (nine rushing, five receiving). He and the Mountaineers play in Athens today against Georgia.

Gwinnett grads power Lenoir-Rhyne success

Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) is off to its best start since 1967 — it’s 8-1 with an eight-game winning streak — thanks to a strong showing by Gwinnett products.

Peachtree Ridge grads Tanner and Tyler Botts, along with Parkview’s Joe Anderson, are key defensive players for the Bears, who are ranked 18th nationally in NCAA Division II and No. 1 in Super Region II after last weekend’s 37-3 win over No. 16 Carson-Newman.

Tanner Botts has a team-high 89 tackles (five for losses) with two sacks, one interception, six pass breakups, four quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.

Fellow linebacker and twin brother Tyler Botts has 42 tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries. Anderson, a starter at cornerback, has 52 tackles (three for losses), one sack, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Collins Hill grad Jimmy Bayer is one of the leaders of the Bears’ offensive line, starting for a unit that averaged 362 rushing yards, second-best nationally. Brookwood’s Tyler Evans, a freshman, is a reserve offensive lineman.

Lenoir-Rhyne reached the national playoffs for the first time since 1962 last season and won its first game. It has clinched at least a share of its third straight South Atlantic Conference title and has a great chance for a playoff return with wins the next two weeks.

SOCCER

Au named to SEC team

South Carolina senior and North Gwinnett grad Danielle Au was named to the SEC Soccer Community Service Team earlier this week.

Au has logged more than 120 community service hours during her college career while maintaining a 3.9 GPA in international business.

Lopez gets league acclaim

Providence Christian’s Tori Lopez, a senior at Presbyterian College, was named to the All-Big South Conference first team this week.

Lopez tied for third in the conference in goals (eight) at the end of the regular season. She set a new school record for Division I play in points (16) and goals. She also had five game-winning goals.

BASKETBALL

Brown named KSU captain

Berkmar’s Yonel Brown, just a sophomore, was named one of the Kennesaw State men’s basketball team’s captains this week.

The guard was one of only two Owls to play in all 30 games last season. He averaged 3.5 points as a freshman.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.