HUNTSVILLE – It is often said that the off-season is what can make or break a team when the regular season comes around. But that applies to coaches just as much as players.

Sam Houston State defensive line coach Rodrique Wright knows that all too well after having spent four years in the NFL following an all-America playing career at the University of Texas. He has taken that way of thinking into his coaching career as well.

Wright spent part of the 2016 off-season part of the NFL's Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship with the Seattle Seahawks and followed that up with a stint this summer in the same program, joining up with the San Francisco 49ers during a portion of June.

“The internship really highlights the connection with the NFL,” Wright said upon returning from his time with the 49ers. “For me, it's more the recognition and the defensive line. One of my big selling points in recruiting is NFL technique and the fact that we have the ability to merge what they are doing at the highest level of the game with what we are doing here.”

The program began in 2012 and is designed as a vocational tool to increase the number of full-time NFL minority coaches with all 32 NFL clubs participating each year. Clubs bring on their participants and mentor them in a number of different areas, allowing them to participate directly in that team's training camp.

During his time with San Francisco, Wright was able to attend staff meetings and participate directly in practices. That direct experience with a professional staff, similar to what he experienced last summer with the Seahawks, is something that Wright knows will benefit he and the rest of the Bearkats in 2017.

“When there, I'm basically in the system just like a coach,” Wright said. “From the first staff meeting to the end, you are in it. As time went on and I became comfortable and spoke up more. On the field, I was an assistant for whatever the coach needs me to do. Whether it was helping with rotations, holding a bag, whatever. When there, you are coaching. They are putting you to work.”

Now with two summers worth of NFL coaching tutelage, Wright knows he has not only established relationships with the coaches that he has worked directly with, but also established credibility with his current Bearkat players.

“For me to come back a second time and I've got more credibility for those guys that we have who have NFL capability,” Wright said. “I stayed in contact with our guys, and was able to speak to them directly and tell them how it is at the highest level. I can tell these guys exactly what it takes to get to the NFL, and for those who don't aspire to get to the NFL, it's still the highest level of technique and it is something that can be applied to everyone.”