Some people just have an infectious personality that those around them gravitate toward.
There’s no question Utah State’s football team has a student-athlete like that in senior tailback Gerold Bright. Just ask Stacy Collins, who is USU’s running backs coach and special teams coordinator.
“Gerold’s a great guy to be around,” Collins said. “He’s got a great personality. It’s really been awesome in my time here, since I got here in 2016, to watch him grow, watch him develop, and not just as a football player but as a person, as a man.”
Not only is Bright charismatic and the life of the party, he is also a very good leader and football player. Having a player like Bright on the roster was a huge deal for an Aggie offense that entered the 2019 campaign low on experience.
“He’s a great leader, he’s another coach in the room,” Collins said. “I mean, he understands, he’s been through (the process), so that’s huge. And on the field, he’s an explosive playmaker. He can do a lot of things for us, certainly as a running back, catching balls out of the backfield, but he does a really good job on special teams for us also.”
A year ago, Bright was one half of the most dynamic 1-2 tailback punch in the Mountain West. The son of Timothy Bright and Chandra Gorham teamed up with now-Kansas City Chiefs running back Darwin Thompson to rush for 1,932 yards and 24 touchdowns. Bright accounted for 888 of those yards and 10 of those TDs, and also caught 22 passes for 232 yards and three more scores.
Not much has changed in 2019 as the Aggies once again have arguably the best 1-2 tandem in the conference at their disposal. Joining Bright this year is junior college transfer Jaylen Warren, who has gained 256 yards on the ground and scored three times in USU’s two games.
In those two games, Bright has rushed for 104 and a pair of TDs on 18 carries. No. 1 has also chipped in with seven receptions and has been one of the team’s top special teams performers.
Indeed, Bright and Warren have been key catalysts for an Aggie offense that currently ranks third nationally in total offense (656.5 yards per game) and first in the Mountain West in scoring offense (48.5 points an outing). Not bad for an offense that only returned two full-time starters.
Nevertheless, being the competitor he is, Bright “is never satisfied with where we are.”
“We always have to get better because there’s a whole bunch of teams and guys out there putting in the same work we’re putting in, so we’ve got to make sure our execution is to a T, we’ve got to make sure everything is fundamentally sound,” Bright said. “So, I’m happy with where we are. It could always be worse, but it’s definitely got to get better.”
The speedy Bright is doing what he can to help the Aggie offense become more explosive and consistent. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder has worked on ‘being a football junkie” as he spent a lot of time this past offseason in the film room, with the goal of “really understanding defenses way better, and seeing tendencies and knowing them before things happen.”
A strong work ethic is something Bright has developed during his four-plus years in Logan. No. 1 has experienced a great deal of growth on and off the field while dealing with being nearly 2,000 miles away from his hometown.
“I learned more about myself being far away from home, being independent, learning stuff on my own. I have a son, so that’s one of the most amazing things that can happen to anyone,” said Bright, whose son, Baylor, will celebrate his second birthday in October.
The native of Pensacola, Florida, first arrived in Cache Valley in the summer of 2015, and promptly redshirted his first season. How difficult was the adjustment for Bright?
“I’ve got a philosophy that I’m a compromiser without changing who I am, so it was a culture shock when I first got up here, of course, with the weather, the religion, the people, the surroundings, everything,” he said. “It was completely different than Florida, but finally last year I kind of started liking it. ... You never know what’s good until it’s gone ... you never realize that right away.”
Bright was recruited to USU by former wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight, who now has the same job at the University of Oregon. Bright also seriously considered accepting a scholarship offer from the University of Florida, but ultimately USU “showed me a lot of love and made me their top priority, so that’s why I choose here.”
During Bright’s first season at USU, there were three other players from The Sunshine State on the roster in cornerbacks Daniel Gray and Tyler Floyd, and running back LaJuan Hunt. Did that Florida connection help influence Bright to come to Utah State?
“No, not really,” Bright said. “I mean, it helped that there were Florida people up here, some people I could probably relate to as soon as I got up here, but yeah it wasn’t too much of a big factor. But it played its role.”
USU recruited Bright as an athlete and wide receiver. He certainly proved he was a multifaceted weapon during his time at Escambia High School. As a prep star, Bright competed over all the field in Escambia’s triple option attack. Bright played wingback, fullback, receiver and quarterback en route to garnering third-team all-state honors as a junior and first-team all-state accolades as a senior.
As a senior, Bright rushed for 1,520 yards and 21 TDs on 164 carries. He also completed 51 of 80 passes for 719 yards and eight TDs, vs. three interceptions. Bright amassed 1,538 yards on the ground as a junior, threw for 104 yards and hauled in nine receptions for 181 yards.
Despite having experience as a prep signal caller, Bright has yet to attempt a pass at USU. That’s an opportunity he would relish as a senior.
“I hope so, man, because I’ve got an arm,” Bright said with a chuckle. “Man, they sleeping on me. I’ve got an arm, but they don’t want to let me throw the ball. But I hope I get one, though, before it’s all over.”
Even if he never throws a pass in a game at USU, Bright has already demonstrated his versatility. During his time as an Aggie, Bright has rushed for 1,328 yards and 15 touchdowns, snared 44 receptions for 508 yards and five scores, and returned 14 kickoffs for an average of 19.1 yards.
“He does everything,” Collins said. “I mean, he catches the ball well, he runs the ball well, he blocks well, he has multiple skillsets, he’s a return guy for us and he also starts on other phases of our special teams, so that versatility is very, very valuable.”
Additionally, Bright has proven he can be a big-play threat at the FBS level. He burned the Colorado State defense on a 41-yard TD scamper as a redshirt freshman. Over the past two seasons, Bright has found the end zone on runs or receptions of 70, 75, 77 and 83 yards.
Bright has a personal goal to rush for more than 1,000 this season, but his primary objective is to help the Aggies capture that elusive Mountain West title. Competing in the NFL is also one of No. 1’s biggest goals.
“Of course I hope to get an opportunity to play with the big boys in the big league,” said Bright, who graduated from USU with his bachelor’s degree in health science and a minor in sociology this past spring. “If that’s not possible, I want to stay as close to this game as possible.”
In addition to coaching, Bright, who ranks seventh in USU history with his career rushing average of 6.67 yards, can see himself being a teacher or trainer in the future.
“I’ve got a lot of avenues I can take with (my degree),” he said. “... I’m not too sure yet (what I want to do).”
Collins, for one, wouldn’t be surprised if his standout tailback doesn’t have to make that decision until after living out his dream of playing in the NFL.
“I definitely think he has that ability and he has the ability to do it as an offensive player,” Collins said. “And, like I said before, if you’re going to make it to the next level, you better be able to contribute on special teams, and he can do all of those things.”