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Dr. Clay Wright (’01) doesn’t look near as big or menacing as he did when he played linebacker and offensive guard for the Troy University Trojans, but he still carries many of the life lessons he learned on the gridiron.

Dr. Clay Wright and his family“I’ve been blessed with a great support system throughout my life … my parents, my teachers, coaches, lifelong friends, and my family,” said Wright. He is quick to point out that playing football at the collegiate level was not easy. It taught him that hard work pays off.

Wright has been practicing in Dothan since he graduated from the UAB School of Dentistry. It was an easy decision to move back close to where he grew up in Headland, Ala. Through the years, he’s stayed involved in the Troy football program and continues to enjoy coaching high school football at Providence Christian School in Dothan, where he had the opportunity to coach his son when he was in high school. His parents still live nearby and he and his wife, Betsy have two grown children.

But, like two a days on the football field, life hasn’t always been easy. By the time he was in high school, he knew he wanted to be a dentist. Earning an academic scholarship to Troy University allowed him the opportunity to play football, which was a means to an end and allowed him to fulfill a dream. “Dental school was tough. A lot of the facilities were being remodeled, but that (environment) really didn’t bother me,” he said. “We had a close knit class. It reminded me of my small high school class,” said Wright. He admits dental school was challenging, especially some of demands and rigors in the clinics. Wright said Dr. Jean O’Neal was one of his favorite professors. He distinctly recalled juggling his clinical responsibilities with having a young family as a dental student. “Our daughter, Clara, was born during my third year, and my son, Coleman, was born during my fourth year. Betsy had a full-time job, so it was a challenge raising two children with dental school and Betsy’s job,” he said.

One spring day, during his junior year, a tornado hit Vestavia Hills Baptist Church where Clara was in childcare. The roads were impassable, and back then the dental students had pagers, not cell phones. “I was really worried because I couldn’t get in touch with my wife, and I wasn’t sure how we would get to our daughter. At that time, I had a patient waiting for me in the clinic and Dr. O’Neal said ‘Go, you need to take care of your family’”. Fortunately, his daughter was o.k. but the impression left on Dr. Wright never left him. He knew the UAB faculty might be demanding, but they were also caring and compassionate.

After dental school, Wright spent a short time as an associate to Drs. Press Thornton and M.L. Harris. He first bought half the practice, and later the remaining half from Harris. He also joined the Army Reserves after dental school to help pay off student loans. He spent five years as an officer in the reserves. During that time, he was called to serve in Ft. Benning for several months. It was difficult being away from his family and practice, but he was honored to serve his country in this capacity. He’s been in the same location now the entire time since graduating from UAB. Betsy works in his office handling Human Resources and keeping him organized, and he has, according to him, “twelve outstanding dental staff” who keep him busy.

Wright doesn’t know if he will wear his coaching whistle much longer but he says he will always be involved in his community and in organized dentistry. He serves as the Third District Representative for the UASOD Alumni Association, and is active in several community organizations. In fact, he’s organizing the Class of 2001 twenty year reunion. He has always taken on responsibility, whether with organized sports, dentistry, or his family. It’s who he is!