Fitness found him during childhood. Growing up, he saw his father suffer three heart attacks and undergo triple-bypass surgery.
“Having your dad go through those things—it was very hard, and it was scary. It motivated me,” says Bryan Wright, head strength and conditioning coach at Port St. Lucie’s BARWIS Performance Center, which specializes in everything from methods training to neurological reengineering.
Wright knew that he, as an African-American male, was at risk for high blood pressure, and the soul food diet on which he was raised added to his health concerns.
“As a younger kid, I realized that and didn’t want to deal with it,” he says. “I wanted to give myself the best opportunity to stay healthy.”
The Georgia native attended West Virginia University and played running back for the Mountaineers. Mike Barwis, founder and CEO of BARWIS Performance Center, served as the team’s director of strength and conditioning.
“Mike was my coach in college,” Wright, 35, says. “I took a liking to what he did when I was a football player. From there, I made sure I learned that craft.”
He transferred to Shepherd University and played running back for the Rams while earning a bachelor’s degree in fitness and exercise science. Barwis lured him back to WVU by offering him a position as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. In 2008, he earned a master’s degree in athletic education.
“I’m all about fitness,” the 5-foot-7-inch, 200-pounder says. “I love the body.”
Wright ended at the University of California, Davis, in charge of running backs for the Aggies. In 2014—the year Wright’s father died—Barwis came calling again, this time to ask him to join the performance center’s staff.
“As soon as I got that call, it was an answer to my prayers,” Wright says. “I’m doing what I love to do. I don’t stress about much because life is too good.”
To what do you attribute your positive outlook?
To my mother. My mother was a very positive woman. She taught me to have a good time. She was always the one to remind me that life is fun.
What is your most memorable moment on the gridiron?
My most memorable moment playing football is my senior game at Shepherd with the Rams, when I got to walk out of the tunnel and be with my mom and dad for my last college football game.
What is your most memorable moment at the performance center?
Kirk, one of my first neuro clients. He was told he’d never move his arms. He was told he’d never be normal. This kid now drives and goes to college. He got straight As in his first semester. When he got his report card, he came to me to tell me how thankful he was for his new life.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I do have a life outside of the BARWIS method. My guilty pleasure in food is chicken wings. That’s my thing. If I could eat a wing every day, I would, but I know I can’t.