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Where are your former Browns now? CB/S Felix Wright

25 questions with a Dawg Pound original 

The story of former Cleveland Browns defensive back Felix Wright is not just of a great football player, but of a football player who persevered in sports as well as in life.

Wright has several nicknames. The most prominent is “Flex.” He grew up in Carthage, Missouri, and loved the playing style of Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Emmitt Thomas since the Chiefs played nearby.

After a really good high school career, he received minimal attention from colleges including only one D-1 school. He accepted the scholarship from Drake University and although an outstanding institution, it didn’t exactly have Power 5 credentials. And despite a very good college career, because Flex had attended a football school that may not have had the scouts flocking to practices or even games for that matter, he went undrafted and unnoticed in the NFL draft in 1983.

New York Jets v Cleveland Browns Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

In fact, Flex received just one inquiry from a sports agent. He did not receive any calls from NFL clubs wanting him to sign as an undrafted rookie free agent after the draft had run its course. So, he used his degree to become a teacher who would also coach a bit.

Maybe Flex would eventually have had a champion track star under his wing or roam the sideline of a playoff football squad. Perhaps he would walk the floor for a title-winning basketball roster on the weekends while teaching history during the workday.

And that may have been the end of this story as he planned for his teaching retirement while going home to various plaques, certifications, banners, trophies, photos, and accomplishments his high school teams had accumulated over the many decades.

Except one person told him he still had an athlete inside him. And that he should pursue that avenue and see where it took him. After all, he was a young man with years of sporting events ahead of him. If that is, he could get the chance. He goes into detail about this later and what that journey entailed.

Flex was raised Catholic. He was involved in multiple sports playing football in the fall, basketball during the winter months, and baseball in the spring. The sport he excelled in was baseball playing shortstop and batting either in one of the top two spots in the lineup.

As a high school athlete, he was recognized as one of the most versatile players ever to come out of Carthage. He garnered awards in both baseball and football during his senior year, but accepted a football scholarship to Drake instead of several NAIA and D2 offers from Missouri Southern State College, Pittsburg State University, and Tarkio College. None of these were big schools whereas Drake was D-1.

While playing defensive back at Drake he never missed a game in his four years there. As a senior, he was elected team captain and later named the team’s MVP.

He then played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League from 1982-1984 and was named to the All-Star team twice. Flex also played in the Grey Cup with two interceptions in the losing effort. In his final year with Hamilton he had 12 interceptions and suddenly, NFL teams had noticed him - one of which was Cleveland.

1991 Score Supplemental football card #12T

Flex came to the Browns in the first year of the origins of the Dawg Pound and played from 1985-1990. He then was with the Minnesota Vikings for two seasons before going to the Chiefs in 1993. In 1989, he was the NFL interceptions leader with nine picks.

His Twitter handle is @FelixWright22. Later, he would be inducted into the Carthage High School “Hall of Carthage Heroes.”

His story is about a man who rose from obscurity and unwanted in the pro football universe, to being a star athlete at the highest level. And when he finished his football career, he began a consulting career that helps NFL and NBA players resolve financial issues, work on branding, public relations plus other aspects of being a sports personality. This is done with knowledge, experience, integrity, and an unwavering commitment to personal service which has existed for over 30 years.

The Browns’ newly-signed DT Dalvin Tomlinson is a client.

Today, Flex is 63 years old and lives in Westlake, Ohio. He has two daughters and a son: Alli (30), Taylor (29), and Carlton (22).

Dawgs By Nature caught up with the busy Flex to find out how he went from small-town Missouri to Canada to Cleveland, what Marty Schottenheimer was really like, and what it takes to do the job of an NFL uniform cop.

DBN: You and your two brothers were always involved in sports growing up. What do you remember about your Little League team being Missouri State Champions?

Wright: I remember it like it was yesterday. Out of the three sports baseball was the one I was the best in. We were really good in Missouri and came close many, many years to advance. Coach Chester was awesome. We worked on fundamentals all the time and by the time we got thru Babe Ruth and up into high school we had a really good team and we were pretty successful. For whatever reason I used to get hurt more in baseball. I played shortstop and either batted lead-off or second because I can get as many many at-bats as I could. For being state champs we won a trophy. That’s all you could get for being 11 and 12-year-olds. As good as we were we never made it to the Little League World Series.

DBN: At Carthage High School, you continued to play baseball as well as basketball and football. Although you were a tremendous baseball player, you earned All-Conference and All-District in football. What made you choose football over baseball going into college?

Wright: Football comes first in the school year and I was always injury free. We grew up a modest family and didn’t have a lot of money. Drake University called and offered me a football scholarship so I took it because it was a guarantee and I didn’t think Drake would wait until baseball season to see if I was gonna sign. That was a major factor money-wise that I was going to get an education that was paid for and at the same time play a sport that I really enjoyed. Plus they were D-1. I took the visit, they really wooed me and took care of me.

DBN: After going undrafted in the 1985 NFL draft, you became a high school history teacher and coach in Joplin. That lasted only one year. What inspired you to pursue pro football and give up coaching?

Wright: In the Missouri Valley Conference we didn’t get much exposure and so I really didn’t have any opportunities. I got one letter from an attorney in Philadelphia stating that he’d like to represent me. But I never got any calls and never really had any scouts come by. I had graduated and wasn’t drafted and didn’t receive any calls, so I was like well, I got an education and gotta make money so let me see what’s available. I was hired as a teacher and a coach in Joplin, Missouri. I ended up coaching football, women’s basketball and the boys and girls track. I went into football training camp and so we got probably halfway through the season and one of the defensive backs that I was working with just couldn’t get the technique right that I was trying to explain to him. I just went up and showed him what I was looking for. Several of the coaches asked me “Why are you still here? You should playing football. You shouldn’t be here.” That gave me an idea and that evening I called up my mom and asked if she still had my college books because I need that letter for that agent. She said she haven’t thrown anything away so I found the letter and gave him a call. He remembered me.

DBN: Your first step was to hire an agent. Was he able to get you a tryout?

Wright: I told him I had been working out with my athletes down here and I really want an opportunity and maybe he could see if he could get me a tryout. His name was Elliott Layman. He called me the next day and said he had good news and bad news. I said well give me the good news first.

1991 Fleer football card #42

He told me he had two tryouts. I said great work, what is the bad news? He said they are on the same day and you have to choose which one you want to go to. Well, I was on a teacher’s salary and didn’t have a lot of money, so I’m probably gonna go to the closer one. He told me he had a tryout with the Detroit Lions and the Houston Oilers. Being from Missouri, Houston was the closest city. So I planned it out to have my uncle Tinker Lounis drive me down to Oilers camp in his car. There was a month and a half window that I can fine-tune my skills before the tryout which would be on a Friday and Saturday. We got down there on Friday to get in the hotel room so I can stretch and get ready for my workout on Saturday. They had told me that we could come by and check out camp on Friday. So that is what we did. I just was blown away by the amount of people that was there for this which was about 150 athletes. I just remember saying to my uncle, “There is no way I am gonna get a legitimate look at this workout. This is a waste of time.” My uncle said, “Felix, I took off work and drove you down here to work out. You are going to work out.”

DBN: How did the Houston tryout go, and did they offer you a training camp contract?

Wright: On Saturday morning I stretched and did my normal routine and went down to the workout on Saturday. We did a bunch of drills and I ran well timed 4.5 in the 40. After about an hour they brought all 300 players together. The 150 from my workout plus the guys from the day before. They thanked all of us for coming to work and that there were a lot of ballplayers which could be discouraging. They said they were selecting three players out of the 300 that had worked out. And I was the second name called. They signed me to a contract right there on the spot. Then I went home and was all excited and had to tell the school. I then moved down there. I really believe that camp in 1982 was probably the best training camp I’ve ever played in my life. But I was cut after the second preseason game.

DBN: How did you end up with Hamilton of the CFL, and is it true your first game you had to cover receivers who were catching passes from Warren Moon?

Wright: As soon as I was let go, I was contacted by Hamilton and they offered me a contract. The first game was against Edmonton and Warren Moon and he was picking on the new guy. As he should. So his first 12 passes were in my direction. I intercepted one and took it all the way back for a touchdown. He settled down after that.

DBN: During your three seasons in Hamilton you were named to the All-Star team twice and led the league in interceptions. You even had two interceptions in the 1984 Grey Cup loss. What was that Grey Cup experience like?

Wright: The Grey Cup was great. It’s the Super Bowl of the CFL. It was a great experience and the ultimate goal. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. And when I came to the NFL the ultimate goal was to get to the Super Bowl. That is the only game that I never got the opportunity to play in. I played in the Hall of Fame game and a lot of playoff games and the AFC Championship Game four times. The Grey Cup was my Super Bowl experience.

1984 Jogo CFL football card #126

DBN: With all of your success in the CFL, suddenly the spotlight was on you. Four NFL teams wanted to sign you including Cleveland. Why did you pick the Browns?

Wright: Marty Schottenheimer for sure. He was one of the most honest human beings I have ever met. He would say, “If you’re good enough, you’re gonna play.” It did not matter what round you were picked in or if you were drafted at all. He just wanted the best players on the field at all times. He was a firm believer in the best player always plays to give the team the best opportunity to win games. I really liked that. You can’t ask for more as a ballplayer. If you’re the best out there at the time you’re gonna play and it didn’t matter how big or how small your contract was. And his words came true. Schottenheimer was a defensive coach which I really liked. My first contract was a three-year deal worth around $300,000. I remember getting a $20,000 signing bonus and thought I had made it. It was more than the CFL could pay me.

Editor’s note: In today’s NFL, $20,000 is what they pay players to keep their cleats tied (yes, it’s a joke).

DBN: The Browns had a talented defensive backfield when you arrived in 1985 with Pro Bowlers Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield. Did these two help you or act like you were the kid trying to take their job?

Wright: They were all about it and was a total team deal. They didn’t worry about their positions because they were both Pro Bowlers. I was a tweener because I could play safety and had played cornerback in the CFL. Schottenheimer wanted me to learn for a year and play on special teams. Maybe back up Donnie Rogers and Al Gross some. They were pretty good ballplayers as well. In my first couple of years, I played nickelback and special teams. Going into my third year I was moved to free safety so that I could roam. Dixon and Minnifield were both great cover guys and when I got switched to safety it made my job a lot easier. They took care of their man and and took them out of the game which allowed me to focus on helping out at the line of scrimmage.

DBN: How was an NFL training camp different than a CFL training camp?

Wright: CFL training camp is a breeze compared to the NFL. The Canadian game is 95% pass. So you are consistently working on your pass defense while the offense is working on the passing game. The NFL is a more physical game with bigger people and the players are a lot faster. In the CFL, the offensive and defensive linemen are not as big as in the NFL. It was a transition period that I had to endure to adjust back to the way it used to be.

DBN: What was Marty Schottenheimer like as a coach and as a person, and what were the nicknames he gave you?

Wright: Marty was my favorite coach of all time. He gave me an opportunity to come back and play in the NFL. He was a player’s coach and gave me nicknames. Some of which Hanford Dixon tried to steal. He called me “the Pickmaster” because at practice I would always intercept Bernie (Kosar) and Gary Danielson. I would come up with the ball all the time. Everybody wanted that name Pickmaster. It also seemed that on Prime Time on Monday Night Football, I would always come up with an interception. I don’t know why it happened but it just did. In an interview after one game he called me “Mr. Monday Night.” Those two names stuck. You know when I see guys at reunion events some of them call me Pickmaster, some call me Mr. Monday Night, while the rest call me “Flex” which is a nickname I got at Drake.

DBN: Your first year with Cleveland is also the beginnings of the “Dawg Pound.” What do you remember about this during practices, and what was your role in this creation?

Wright: I really didn’t have a role in it. It was really Hanford Dixon, Eddie Johnson, and Frank Minnifield who started all that and came up with that dawg idea. Then they started barking at the fans and it took over from there. But it was great because I came into an era where the Kardiac Kids were coming to an end and maybe Hanford and Frank thought that they needed a new idea and maybe a new identity. The four starters did that poster with those four mean dogs.

DBN: Over the next few seasons you became a special teams demon for Cleveland. You blocked one punt that was recovered for a touchdown, partially blocked another punt, and then against the Minnesota Vikings you scooped up another blocked punt and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. At this point, you were the third safety. Did you think you would be regulated to special teams forever, or did you see your success with special teams as a way to get more defensive snaps?

Wright: Playing special teams was keeping me on the team. If you aren’t on the starting lineup you have to be productive in other ways. That is why you see a lot of guys who are successful because they began as monsters on special teams. That is just another unit that has to be just as successful if your team is going to go anywhere in the playoffs. I just worked hard and did what I needed to until I was able to get some defensive snaps and eventually get into the lineup. Sometimes you have to work your way into a position until the opportunity arrives and that is what I did. In practice, the coaches knew I had an eye for the ball and even when I was able to get into games I had some interceptions. Eventually they came to the conclusion we gotta start this kid.

DBN: In your third year you had seven starts and the following season you started at free safety. What do you attribute your progression to?

Wright: I went into the lineup in 1987 and then never relinquished it. I was able to get a lot of interceptions which came from my study habits that I had. Minnifield and Dixon put me in good position where I could read and react and go get the ball. My progression trumped the efforts of the other safeties on the roster. The coaches told me just keep doing what you’re doing.

DBN: A lot of folks don’t realize that being in the NFL is a full-time job. Walk us through a game day week.

Wright: Monday we review the film and correct the mistakes that we made during the last game. We are off on Tuesday and start practicing on Wednesday. That’s when the game plan starts. The coaches start right after the game because their job is 24/7. Wednesday we work on first and second-down situations. Thursdays we work on second and third and long and all of third down situations. On Friday we work on the overall packages including special teams. On Saturday we walk through everything that we have planned for Sunday. If we have a travel day on Saturday, we just relax at the hotel with the game on Sunday. And all the while you work out when you can and get treatments for any injuries. Even with a home game, we stayed at a local hotel because you would have family that would come in and ballplayers would stay up a lot later than they should. We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Independence. Then we start the process all over again the following week.

DBN: From the time you joined the Browns until Schottenheimer’s final year in 1988 the team was crazy good going to three AFC Championship Games and a winning record each year. Where were you when you heard that Schottenheimer had stepped down as head coach, and after all that success, why would Art Modell allow him to walk away?

Wright: It was during the off-season so I was back in Missouri. I really couldn’t believe it - I was really disappointed. Modell felt that they needed to make some changes at the offensive coordinator position and Marty wasn’t having it. It ended up being a cluster. Really disappointed to hear that but we understand. He landed on his feet in Kansas City and we had to keep doing what we did. The Browns hired Bud Carson which was a blessing in disguise for me because he put me in good positions. I really enjoyed Bud. He had a lot of knowledge of the defensive side of the ball and was older than Marty as well. Marty was the ultimate, but Bud was a good coach especially being a defensive-minded coach. As far as Modell allowing Marty to move on, it was probably ego. He wanted some changes with the offense and Marty didn’t feel it was the owner’s position to make changes to his coaching staff. They were going in opposite directions. Sometimes when the owner mettles a little too much, that’s when they get in trouble. When they hire a coach they should allow the coach to coach, and choose who coaches around him. If you’re in football operations you probably should stay in that part of the organization.

DBN: You had great anticipation for the ball. In 1989, you were the league interceptions leader with nine. From Heartland USA to the lesser-known Pioneer Conference to going undrafted to playing in Canada, and now here you are leading the NFL in interceptions. Your thoughts?

Wright: It was an obvious goal that I had and once I attained it it was an awesome feeling. I had always dreamed of being the interception leader whether in the CFL or the NFL. First you get the ball back for your offense. I worked on it and thought about it all the time. It was an awesome goal that I was able to achieve in both leagues. Leading the team, leading the AFC, and then the entire league. It was something that I worked very, very, very hard for. It was a goal of mine from the inception of playing pro football.

DBN: Tell us something interesting about Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

Wright: It was old. It was a great stadium because you could put what felt like 100,000 people in there. When my family would come up they would look around and say the place was awesome. People like the new stadium, but I like the old stadium better. The showers were terrible, the locker rooms were small, and overall the facilities were terrible compared to what today’s athletes have. It was a stadium that I cherished and really we didn’t have a choice. We had to deal with that facility. And what we had in Berea wasn’t that great either. It was a put-together deal on a college campus. These guys now have this state-of-the-art facility where they can work out and every single aspect of the organization has enough room and not be cramped like in the old days.

DBN: Once you hung up your cleats in 1993, shortly thereafter you founded a company along with Pat Dye, Jr. called SportsTrust. What type of business is that?

Wright: It is a company that works with athletes helping them to make financial decisions. We help them coordinate life with football and life after football. We would offer ballplayers knowledge on how they should handle their finances and how they should handle their families. During and after football.


DBN: How did you get interested in this line of work?

Wright: As a teacher and a coach I had already been in education. I really enjoyed educating ballplayers. I had two brothers that I was trying to educate as well that were athletes. I was teaching and training them on the do’s and don'ts regarding finances. I had retired at 33 so I had a life to live. The money that I had made playing football was good but it wasn’t gonna set me up for life. If I was going to do something and if I had to work, I wanted to do something that I enjoyed. Working with athletes and helping them get in a position where they could put money away and live happily ever after worked for me.

DBN: What advice do you give to an athlete that they can do with their money while they are still an active player?

Wright: It’s OK to go out and enjoy the money and buy a car and a house. But there’s no reason to go out and buy five houses and 15 cars. That was it in a nutshell. I was helping them to understand that they need to portion manage their funds correctly. And that’s in everyday life no matter who you are. You don’t have to be an athlete to understand that. You have to manage your funds. And live within your means.

DBN: Other than money, how has the NFL changed since you played?

Wright: There’s a lot actually. The game has changed with the concussion stuff. The players today have it made and earn nearly the money that they deserve then when I played. I went through two player strikes to improve the collective bargaining agreement that is what it is today. It didn’t help us but that’s the way it is. The guys before me did the same thing and got us where we were paid a decent wage. I went through the scab season and the replacement players in 1987 which was the first year I was able to secure a starting position in the lineup. The five-yard rule where you can’t touch the receiver going down the field? You have to disengage. Which is obviously an advantage slanted toward the receiver and the offense. It puts the defensive back at a disadvantage. Which is the way they want it. And you can sack the quarterback but you can’t land on him? That makes no sense. There are some rules that are frustrating for defensive players, but what the fans and the league wanna see is scoring. They have to curve the game that way as well.

Browns Felix Wright Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

DBN: Most offenses are run off of timing. New DC Jim Schwartz has his corners play man. Back in your day, getting up close and jamming the receiver at the line was key. Why don’t defenses use this strategy anymore?

Wright: Well you have to have the athlete to do it first off. You have to have players who will play very physically and aren’t afraid of being physical. We had Minnifield and Dixon, Mark Harper, and Al Gross who was able to get their hands on the receivers and perform that task. They could take a receiver out of the play by getting their hands on them right away. The game has changed a lot now. Where you get up there and act like you’re gonna bump and then turn around it is frustrating to watch. When I played in the 1980s you could bump those receivers and continue to bump them all the way down the field until the ball was up in the air. Whereas now they changed the rule to favor the receiver with the five-yard rule where after five yards you’re not allowed to touch them. I wish it was more bump-and-run shutdown.

Felix Wright NFL uniform enforcement

DBN: When we interviewed Reggie Langhorne he said he was a sideline uniform inspector on one side, with you on the other side. How did you get this gig, and how serious is the NFL about keeping their players looking neat and tidy?


Wright: It’s all serious for the NFL because it’s all about sponsorship. They try to protect their sponsors and not have any player commit sponsor sabotage. I brought Reggie on. We were looking for an additional alumni to come on board. At first, they had a guy that was not associated with the Browns or a former player, then they had Eddie Johnson do it for a year and he got sick. They asked me to do it, and I told them I didn’t know if I had time to do it and now I’m going on my 23rd year. It’s an enjoyable time and I enjoy working with Reggie. It’s a pretty awesome side gig that I have. I have had players whom we had difficulty with to do what you expected of them and conform. But they all know both of us now and pretty much change up now whatever the issue is when they see me walking towards them. And if they don’t, we report it and the league fines them. It’s $7,500. Now we tell them don’t let the league take your money back from you. If you’re gonna give your money away just hand it to your parents. For 20 years I did this job by myself. I had to work both sidelines. Now, Reggie and I alternate sidelines every quarter.

DBN: What is your fondest moment of being a Cleveland Brown?

Wright: Just the team aspect of it. When I look back, I look at all the great ballplayers that we had. All those names will be remembered in Browns’ history. And the camaraderie that all of us had together as teammates. All the great games that we played. I played in four AFC Championship Games that we never got past. I always thought each one of those years that we were the better team. But, that doesn’t count. You have to have the most points at the end of the game. Those four championship games were the fondest games that I’ll remember because they were all great games. I’m a Browns alumni and if you go around the City of Cleveland and ask around what they remember the most, it was the teams in the 1980s. The Kardiac Kids and the Dawgs.