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Old 11-13-2005, 10:45 AM  
Straight, No Chaser Straight, No Chaser is offline
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For the 'Old' Timers: Q & A Elmo Wright

Questions for Elmo Wright
Father of End-Zone Dance Explains His Happy Feet

Published: November 13, 2005

In 1969, Elmo Wright, an exuberant junior wide receiver for the University of Houston, started capping his touchdown receptions with celebratory moves.

Wright played, and danced, in the N.F.L. for the Kansas City Chiefs.
That was recognized as the beginning of what is now a craze in the N.F.L.: the end-zone dance. Wright, still the Houston leader in career receiving yards (3,347), kept on dancing during a six-year N.F.L. career that began with the Kansas City Chiefs.

In his third year with the Chiefs, he caught a touchdown pass in a game on Nov. 18, 1973, against the Houston Oilers and celebrated with what some believe was the first end zone dance in N.F.L. history.

During a professional career shortened by injuries, Wright caught only six touchdown passes. Born in 1949, Wright earned a master's degree in business administration after his playing career and works as a finance officer for Harris County in Texas.

Q. When, where and why did you start dancing in the end zone after scoring a touchdown?

A. In my sophomore year in college at Houston, I was throwing the ball down in the end zone. No one was doing that at the time, but I later found out that Homer Jones was doing it in the pros. Anyway, the N.C.A.A. made a rule saying you can't do it anymore. Everybody was asking me what I was going to do. I had no idea.

In our first game my junior year, I was going up against an all-American from Florida named Steve Tannen, and I was thinking he was going to embarrass me. I trained very hard to get ready for that game. To make a long story short, on a little down-and-out pattern, I caught the ball and he dove at my feet. I started high-stepping to get out of it. There was no one else in front of me, so I kept high-stepping all the way to the end zone. I was just so excited.

People were booing me. In the end zone, I kept high-stepping. It felt so good that I had scored that I did an accelerated version of the high step. I got to the sidelines and my teammates were saying to me, "I can't believe you danced." It felt so good, I decided to keep doing it.

Q. Were you always a performer?

A. I was in the school band from third grade to 10th grade and didn't play football. One day after band practice, someone threw a football at me and it hit me in the mouth and busted my lip. The next day, the band director whipped me in front of the entire band. Back then at my high school, you were either in the band or on the football team. So I quit and joined the football team. If that hadn't happened, I never would have become a football player. So I was a performer who became a football player, not a football player who became a performer.

Q. Do you do any dancing today?

A. Well, when my daughter graduated from Barnard and she walked across the stage, I felt like doing a little dance. It's more of a celebration. People celebrate for different reasons. People will probably want to celebrate and dance when the war is over.

Q. Did you create a monster?

A. Years ago, I felt that way, that I had created a monster. But I understand what is going on in these players' minds. I'm older now, so I have a broader perspective. A player who only has to run patterns and score touchdowns isn't thinking long term. He's thinking, I have to get into the end zone and score a touchdown. Wanting to do a dance is an inducement and a motivation to train harder and focus. Players use that in order to play well. Generally speaking, the players who dance are pretty fabulous players.

Q. Who has the best dance in the N.F.L. today?

A. The guy on the Bengals that does the Irish jig dance, Chad Johnson. When I saw him do that dance with his legs, I thought he had some real style. I saw him do that and I almost fell out of my chair. I couldn't believe he did that. Then there was Michael Irvin with the Zorro dance. In my mind, I know these guys are just having fun and that they know that come the next play, they better have their heads back in the game.

Q. You will forever be known as the player who invented the end-zone dance. Does that bother you in any way?

A. People remember the dance but they forget that I broke an N.C.A.A. record for touchdowns. They forget that I had 27, 29 yards per reception. All they remember is the dance. I couldn't believe that people expected me to dance, but forgot what I had to do before that: catch the ball and score a touchdown. It was almost assumed that I was going to score a touchdown. I wasn't that good. I've accomplished a lot in my life, but what happened two seconds after I got into the end zone is what defines my career. Most people don't remember my college career, and I thought I had done quite well. That's the consequence of this. I know what some of these young guys today don't know, that they're going to be remembered for their dances more than for what kind of football players they were.

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