Though the “Kick Six” has hardly faded from the collective memory of the Auburn Faithful, two players who were major contributors to that storied season have since fallen out of Tigers fans’ lexicon – that’s about to change.
Gabe Wright and Sammie Coates both left Auburn on solid footing with promising NFL contracts, though they ultimately reached a point of stagnation before finding a new home in the XFL. Now the pair will look to make the same kind of difference they made seven years ago in the XFL’s second inaugural season.
Gabe Wright – DL #97
After joining the Tigers in 2011 from Columbus (Carver), Georgia. Gabe Wright made an early impact as a freshman, playing in thirteen games with a handful of starts. Though the 2012 season was a major setback for the team as a whole, Wright used his sophomore season as an opportunity to gain experience as he started the last five games of the season.
As fans may blissfully remember, the 2013 season was a the largest turnaround in program history. The Tigers went 12-2 with a new coaching staff and a vastly improved defense. Wright was a cornerstone of this defensive boost, delivering 8 tackles and a sack between the two legendary matchups with Georgia and Alabama. Most memorably, Wright delivered a key block at the end of the Alabama game, helping create the greatest play in college football history.
He continued to perform the following year in his senior season, starting 12 games and recording 24 tackles and 4.5 TFL, paving the way for a series of great defensive players for years to come. Wright was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
Though he had high hopes coming out of Auburn, Wright’s NFL career was relatively inconsistent. Playing his first three seasons with three different teams (Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, and Miami Dolphins), he only played in 13 games and recorded twelve total tackles. He went on to bounce around practice squads until he was drafted in the 2020 XFL Supplemental Draft by the Houston Roughnecks, with the prospect of increased exposure.
Wright will be a valuable leader on the line and should be able to help the Roughnecks defense contain opposing quarterbacks and lay pressure on running backs this season.
Sammie Coates – WR #10
Coming from Leroy High School in Leroy, Alabama, Sammie Coates elected to remain in his home state and joined the Tigers in 2011. Despite sitting out his freshman year recovering from a foot injury, Coates took advantage of a redshirt and began his career with 6 receptions for 114 yards in his second year on the Plains.
In his sophomore season Coates made a name for himself by catching eye-popping deep passes from QB Nick Marshall, fourteen of which were for over thirty yards. By December, he was averaging twelve-and-a-half yards per reception, even after matchups with some of the most adept defenses in the country. He ended the season with 902 receiving yards, highlighted by multiple touchdowns in the SEC championship win over Missouri. Though the Tigers went on to lose a nail-biter in Pasadena against the Oregon Ducks, Coates contributed four receptions in Auburn’s bid for national supremacy.
His progress as a receiver proved to be consistent. In 2014, Coates totaled 741 receiving yards again averaging over twenty yards a touch. He had a highlight reel of deep catches, against a handful of the SEC’s best defenders from LSU, Texas A&M, and Alabama.
After graduating with a degree in Public Administration, Coates joined Gabe Wright in the 2015 NFL Draft. He was selected by the Pittsburg Steelers in the third round and was signed to a four year contract. Coates played for the Steelers from 2015 to 2017, recording two touchdowns, 446 receiving yards and had four receptions in AFC playoff games.
The Steelers ultimately traded Coates to the Cleveland Browns after he suffered a knee injury that required a significant recovery time. He was then claimed off waivers by the Texans and played in 12 games but only secured one reception. After being briefly signed and subsequently released by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019, Coates was drafted in the third round of the XFL Draft to the Houston Roughnecks.
Sammie Coates is no stranger to big plays. From Auburn to the NFL, Coates has shown he can make explosive receptions and poke holes in a defensive backfield.
High Stakes in Houston
Neither Gabe Wright nor Sammie Coates are strangers to the spotlight. Their experience in big college bowl games and the NFL will bring a valuable edge to the Roughnecks. Look for Wright to be a presence on the defensive side of the ball and to be a leader on the line. Meanwhile Sammie Coates will be a threat downfield. Expect see him connect with quarterbacks P.J. Walker and Connor Cook for big plays, along with fellow wide receiver Sam Mobley.
The Houston Roughnecks begin their season at home in TDECU Stadium, facing the Los Angeles Wildcats on Saturday, February 8 at 5PM EST on FOX.