Jacksonville Jaguars' Matthew Wright: Likely the only kicker in the NFL with security clearance

With a degree in aerospace engineering, there's a lot more to Matthew Wright than successfully connecting on kicks for the Jags. AP Photo/Matt Dunham

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – So who, exactly, is Matthew Wright, the guy who snapped the second-longest losing streak in NFL history?

He wanted to be an astronaut as a kid, earned a degree in aerospace engineering, has worked for one of the largest defense contractors in the country (with a security clearance) and is the all-time leading scorer in UCF history.

He also is quiet, unobtrusive, and, until recently, his coach had no idea who he was.

“I honestly remember seeing him walking down the hallway [and] I remember [saying], ‘Who’s that again?’” Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer said. “Now everybody knows who Matt is.”

They should, because his 53-yard field goal with no time remaining helped the Jaguars (1-5) beat the Miami Dolphins 23-20 last Sunday in London. It was the team’s first victory in 399 days, dating back to a victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the 2020 season opener. That was his third field goal of the day – he kicked a 54-yarder to tie the game with 3:40 to play – and he has gotten a lot more attention since then.

“I'm not a huge social media guy, so I try to stay off it as much as I can,” Wright said. “But, yeah, it's really cool to kind of get noticed.”

Wright puts ‘day job’ at Lockheed Martin on hold

Wright doesn’t say much. Even after he was given a game ball in the locker room for the winning kick, he was pretty quiet – so much so that Meyer had to ask him to speak up because people had a hard time hearing him. He joked that he spoke more in the interview he did after Wednesday’s practice than he had the entire day.

“I think I said like 30 words [after the game] and apparently no one heard any of them,” Wright said. “I'm just not a huge talker, so that's not really my favorite thing, but I mean, if [Meyer] wants me to do it, I'm going to do it.”

Working at Lockheed Martin, however, is one of Wright’s favorite things. He is a systems engineer at the global defense contractor, which means he pores through code to improve or fix any issues, and he also tests operating systems and software.

Wright has been doing some form of that since he participated in a cooperative program with the company while he was attending UCF in Orlando.

And he did it while he was setting the school’s all-time scoring record (375 points) from 2014-18. He is also the school’s career leader in field goals made (55) and field goal completion rate (77.5%).

Like many people in 2020, Wright was able to work remotely -- including while he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, on the day he made his NFL debut, he did some work with the company, then went to Heinz Field and kicked a 37-yard field goal and two PATs in the Steelers’ 23-17 loss to the Washington Football Team on Monday Night Football on Dec. 7.

Wright said Lockheed Martin has been great about allowing him to still pursue his dream of being an NFL kicker. He is currently on a leave of absence from Lockheed Martin, but he said the company told him there’s a spot waiting for him whenever he does decide to return.

“When I was younger, I kind of wanted to be an astronaut, and so aerospace engineering was what I thought would be the closest to that, and then I saw UCF had that,” said Wright, who is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “I've always been good at math, and I just figured that that would be something that uses that skill set.

“I love it. [Lockheed Martin] were super nice with everything, so it's been a really flexible job, which has been awesome for, obviously, this.”

Living out his NFL dream

Despite his youthful looks, Wright is 25 years old and with his second NFL team. He spent three games with the Steelers last season, making all four field goal attempts and all seven PATs when subbing for an injured Chris Boswell.

He has been with the Jags since Sept. 27 and has played in the past three games. Wright was signed because Josh Lambo, the most accurate kicker in franchise history, was dealing with confidence issues. Lambo was released Tuesday.

Wright actually missed his first field goal attempt with the Jaguars – a 53-yarder that bounced off the crossbar in a 37-19 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Until Sunday, Wright had made just one field goal longer than 49 yards in college or the NFL – a 50-yarder in a 24-16 victory over Connecticut on Oct. 22, 2016 – so two of the three field goals he made against the Dolphins were the longest of his life.

“I mean, I couldn't dream of what happened in the last game,” Wright said. “It was kind of surreal still but, yeah, just kind of got to put that to the side and just focus on making my next kick.”

Right now, he’s one of the most popular Jaguars players because of his performance on Sunday, but he’d rather be a little more under the radar. He keeps making big kicks, however, and that’s going to be hard.

“Matty is a low-key kind of guy, so I am going to kind of let him do his thing, but when the time is right, I will make sure he has all the fame and the show that he deserves,” said cornerback Shaq Griffin, who was Wright’s teammate at UCF for three seasons. “Right now, I am letting him do his thing.”