GLENDALE — Scooby Wright III and his Arizona Hotshots teammates recently received a surprise bonus check from the Alliance of American Football.
"Everybody said, 'Oh, we got a little bonus,'" Wright said. "But no — that was our plane ticket home. We just didn’t know it at the time."
So, when the AAF announced Tuesday that it was suspending its operations with two full weeks left in its inaugural regular season, it didn't come as a complete shock to the former Arizona Cardinals linebacker and Arizona Wildcats All-American.
"I heard speculation and stuff. There was stuff happening throughout the week, so you kind of had an idea, but you didn’t want to believe it," he said.
"I found out at 10:30, got a phone call from my mother. We had a team meeting at 3 o’clock, and that’s just kind of where we said our kumbayas."
The AAF ceased operations following a disagreement in the direction of the league between founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian, and Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, who made a $250 million investment and became majority owner of the league in February.
It was ultimately Dundon's call to suspend the league Tuesday. Polian issued a statement in which he expressed disappointment in that decision.
"You knew something was up when they brought Tom Dundon in," Wright said. "I know when you have that kind of a majority investor that things can get a little eerie. So, I mean, he made his call."
Unlike the XFL's one-year run in 2001, the AAF didn't present itself as competition to the NFL. Rather, it positioned itself as a supplemental league, and even allowed athletes to break their contracts if they received an NFL offer.
Like many athletes who participated in the one, and likely only, AAF season, Wright, who was released by the Cardinals before the 2018 regular season, saw the Hotshots as a possible path back to the NFL.
"I was hoping to put my best stuff on film," he said. "I knew if I played well and I put good stuff on film, the rest would take care of itself."
But while playing for Hotshots coach and former Valley high school football star Rick Neuheisel, Wright experienced something he didn't necessarily expect when he strapped on that green and yellow helmet for the first time.
"I found my love for football again, to be honest," he said. "In the NFL, it’s such a business sometimes. A lot of egos and such. But here, there’s no egos. It was the first time in my professional career I felt like a team."
After Sunday's win at the San Antonio Commanders, the Hotshots had a 5-3 record. They tied atop the AAF's West division and well positioned for a run to what would have been the first-ever AAF championship.
Wright's biggest disappointment is he and his teammates will not get that opportunity.
"It was pretty rough; I’m not gonna lie," he said. "That was a huge goal of ours, of the Hotshots, was win the championship. I mean, that’s the reason why you play. That was probably the biggest disappointment."
Wright has been down the path of disappointment before. In high school, he was overlooked by every FBS school except Arizona. He was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft, even though he expected to be drafted much higher. And he was released by the Cardinals just days before the 2018 regular season began.
But Wright doesn't waste time dwelling on things out of his hands. On Thursday, he'll make the drive back to his home in northern California, continue to stay in football shape and wait for that next opportunity, in whatever form it may come.
"I’m going to control what I can control," he said. "You can’t really get locked in into all that. You’ve just got to keep moving forward."