Hurricane Harvey hits home — literally — for Notre Dame TE Brock Wright

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Len Wright had a plan.

The former Texas Tech offensive lineman — whose son, Brock, is a freshman tight end at Notre Dame — peered out the window of his house in Cypress, Texas, at the unyielding onslaught of Hurricane Harvey. For days, the flood water crept ever closer to his door — at one point forming a waist-high river in the streets leading out of his waterlogged island of a neighborhood.

On Monday, Wright figured … if his electricity failed, if the roof failed, if the storm seeped irreparably into his home, he and his wife, Robin, could evacuate. They could load their family’s dogs onto pool rafts and wade through the waves and current and chaos three miles to their daughter’s house, where hopefully, they’d all be safe. Their valuables — their life, their memories — had already been picked up and moved upstairs.

Luckily, it never came to that.

“You know, it’s been crazy. But we’re high and dry right now,” Wright reported on Tuesday morning from his house, where he and his wife have been since Friday. “We’re on an island. Nobody can get out of their neighborhoods, basically. But the water in the streets receded. I can walk across the street right now.

“So I think we dodged a bullet and we’re going to be fine.”

Many haven’t been so lucky. Cypress — which is located 28 miles northwest of Houston — wasn’t hit as mercilessly as its nearby metropolis, which had been doused by 49 inches of rain in some areas by Tuesday morning. In Houston, more than 3,000 people have been rescued, according to city officials, and the Red Cross estimates more than 5,500 evacuees have fled their homes in favor of the George R. Brown Convention Center, which has more new tenants than available cots.

The National Weather Service characterized Houston’s flooding as "beyond anything experienced before."

Wright — who grew up in Amarillo, Texas, and has lived in the Houston area for three decades — has experienced a lot.

But nothing like this.

“I was here with Hurricane Ike (in 2008), which was just absolutely devastating. Also with Tropical Storm Allison (in 2001), which just crippled the city,” Wright said. “This is much worse. It could be another day or two of really significant evacuations. We’re talking about months of clean-up just to get highways and things cleared.

“It is truly just absolute devastation.”

And, while Wright and his family feel fortunate, some of that devastation hits close to home. Len and Robin’s older son, Brady, is a redshirt junior defensive end and history major at Rice University in Houston. Last week, the Owls flew to Sydney, Australia, where they dropped their 2017 season opener to Stanford, 62-7.

In the big picture, however, that loss was inconsequential.

“I think he’s probably lost his house that he and two of his teammates rent,” Len Wright said of Brady. “I’m sure they’ve lost all their vehicles. Half of that team that lives off campus lives around one of the most devastated areas. Those in apartments are probably OK, but most of their vehicles will probably be gone. Most of those kids are going to be displaced.”

And, if they are, the Wrights will be ready. They’ll have a plan.

“We’ve been going through the kids’ closets and putting together bags of clothes,” said Wright, who works as the executive vice president of hospital relations for US Anesthesia Partners in Houston. “If those teammates of Brady’s have lost everything, we’re trying to figure out, what do we do to help them?”

Right now, from their involuntary sanctuary in Cypress, they can only do so much. Brady Wright and his teammates arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday, where they are temporarily living and training on campus at Texas Christian University.

They don’t know when they’ll get home — or what home will look like when they get there.

“They had a lot of excitement going (to Australia),” Wright said. “Coming back, they knew what they were coming back to — a lot of uncertainty.”

That’s true for both Brady and Brock.

“Obviously he’s very concerned,” Len said of Brock Wright, who enrolled early at Notre Dame in January and will make his collegiate debut against Temple on Saturday. “He was texting me last night probably right before he went to bed, and his question was, ‘Are we going to get water in our house?’

“I said, ‘No, buddy. We’re fine. We’re in great shape, but pray for all those that are so much less fortunate.’ ”

The Wrights are waiting and praying.

They aren’t the only ones.

“Robin, my wife, got a really sincere text message from (Notre Dame sophomore long snapper) John Shannon yesterday morning,” Wright said. “We’ve heard from a lot of the parents and the folks that we’ve met through the Notre Dame process. It’s another family all across the country checking on us, so it’s great to see.”

This weekend, Len hopes to see that family — that process — in person.

Again, he’s got a plan.

Originally, Len and Robin Wright were scheduled to fly from Houston to Chicago, and then to South Bend, on Friday morning. Considering the circumstances, Robin will likely stay to help Brady and his teammates with their return to Houston — whenever that happens.

As for Len, the flight from Houston to South Bend is still an option. And if it’s cancelled, he’s prepared to drive three and a half hours north to Dallas to find a different flight.

Or, to keep driving.

“If I have to drive all the way there,” Len Wright said, “I’ll be there.”

All for a game his son might not even play in. A former consensus four-star recruit, Brock — a 6-foot-5, 254-pound freshman — is one of five scholarship tight ends on Notre Dame’s roster. In the team’s open scrimmage on Aug. 20, he also lined up as a fullback in goal line situations.

Head coach Brian Kelly confirmed last week that Wright will play this season.

But how much? And how soon?

“Brock’s gotten better each and every day,” offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Chip Long said. “(He and fellow freshman Cole Kmet are) kind of different in what they do, but Brock is very strong at the point of attack.

“He’s still working his way through it and figuring it out, but he’s done a great job this summer.”

Maybe, on Saturday, Brock will find a few reps on special teams. Who knows? Maybe he’ll find the end zone.

Either way, Len will be there to see it — even if he has to load the dogs onto pool rafts and wade all the way from Cypress, Texas, to South Bend.

“It would be thrilling to watch him run out of the tunnel and see that entire experience,” Wright said. “I don’t know if he’ll get to play at all other than a little special teams here and there, but he’s very excited.”

Len Wright added: “One of us will be there.”


Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame tight end Brock Wright (89) runs drills during spring practice at the Loftus Sports Center, Wednesday, March 8, 2017 in South Bend. Tribune Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ