Allen Wright sat atop one of the Kansas City Chiefs specially designed buses that drove down Grand Boulevard Wednesday morning as hundreds of thousands of fans lined the street and gathered in the Liberty Memorial Plaza, waiting to celebrate the team’s first Super Bowl championship in 50 years.
“All I could think,” said Wright, the team’s head equipment manager who graduated from William Chrisman High School in 1983 and joined the NFL team as a courier the same year, “was what’s a kid who grew up in Sugar Creek doing on this bus?
“I have to tell you – I was with my wife, the love of my life, my son, who is the best kid on the planet, and we’d won the Super Bowl! I felt like I’d won the lottery of life. I still can’t believe it. It’s a humbling experience, one I will never forget.”
Wright is now one of the most respected equipment managers in the NFL. He ranks alongside the peers of his profession in much the same fashion coach Andy Reid ranks among NFL coaches.
Wright was the recipient of the 2017 Innovation in Safety Award from the Maxwell Football Club. The longtime Eastern Jackson County resident received the award on a nationally televised program that featured the elite of the NFL.
“The Maxwell Football Club has a proud, 80-year history of promoting athlete safety in the sport of football, and recognition of the contributions of equipment managers like Allen Wright highlights the important work they do,” said Mark Wolpert, MFC executive director. “Allen's heightened attention to the proper fit of football helmets showed all the right instincts of an equipment manager finding new ways to protect players.”
Wright’s not really a black tie affair guy. He felt much more comfortable in the Chiefs locker room earlier this season when Reid announced that he would conduct the team’s boisterous postgame celebration following a 34-30 win over Detroit.
“It was Week 4 and it was my 600th game with the team,” said Wright, who lives in Eastern Jackson County and watched his son Andrew play basketball at Blue Springs South High School.
“Patrick (Mahomes) was on one side and I was surrounded by Andy and all the guys. It was amazing. Once again, one of those moments in my life I will never forget.”
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Wright’s longtime tenure with the Chiefs is that he served under nine different head coaches, beginning with John Mackovic in 1983 and going through Reid in this Super Bowl championship season.
“I was just a courier when Mackovic was with the team,” Wright said. “He had a party at his home and (former president) Jack Steadman, who really treated me well, invited me to the party.
“I was a kid, I’d just graduated from Chrisman and I was like, ‘You’re inviting me?’ So I went to the old TG&Y on 24 Highway, bought some khakis and went to the coach’s house and I’d never seen anything like it.
“That was my introduction to what life in the NFL was like.”
Frank Gansz, a former special teams coach, followed Mackovic as head coach briefly, then the Marty Schottenheimer era began in 1989.
“I was driving Marty and I had heard that all the guys like me were going to be fired and that the new coaches were bringing in their own people,” Wright said. “I told Marty, ‘I wish I was going to have the chance to work with you and get to know you, Coach,’ when I was driving him, and he said, ‘Oh gosh, I’ve been so busy. You’re not going anywhere.’”
And the rest is history. Gunther Cunningham, Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards, Romeo Crennel, Todd Haley and Reid, the future Hall of Famer, followed and each one leaned on Wright’s expertise in the locker room.
He is the glue that keeps things together. Wright personally packs the bags of all 53 players and he is sure to include everything from game gear to their favorite lucky shirt.
During the season, a typical day begins at 4:30 a.m. – “I like to get there early and get going,” he said, grinning – and ends around 6 or 7 p.m.
“I got the biggest compliment I ever received from a player this season from LeSean McCoy,” Wright said. “He told me that I treated every player – from the veteran guys to the rookies – the same, with class. I like to make every guy feel special. This is my team and they are my guys and I want them to know I would do anything for them.”
And he would do anything for friends and family away from the field. Wright made sure close friends and family members were able to enjoy the Super Bowl experience, as well as the parade.
“It was all so incredible,” Wright said. “We rented a home in Florida for my wife and son and I stayed with the team at the hotel. The week was so amazing, and I got to share it with my family and a lot of people I am so close to.
“The amount of texts I got after we won – from friends and so many former players – was unreal. I made sure to get back to every one of them, because that was so special.
“And then, to come back home and have the parade. Sitting on top of that bus, and having some of the people in the crowd wave and shout out my name – man, I’m just the equipment manager. But that’s what makes this town so amazing, so special.
“I’m a hometown guy and our team won the Super Bowl. It’s just hard to wrap my arms around everything that has happened. But I’m going to enjoy every minute of it, I can promise you that.”