Gary Wright's name is synonymous with public relations in Seattle, so much so that the press box at Lumen Field was renamed the Gary Wright Press Box upon his retirement from the Seahawks in 2008.
But for all Wright meant to the Seahawks, having worked for the team since its inaugural season in 1976, and later to Sounders FC, for whom he worked until 2014, his impact in the public relations world went far beyond the two Seattle sports teams that employed him.
So it comes as no surprise that, with the Pro Football Hall of Fame announcing its inaugural recipients of Awards of Excellence, Wright is one of the 20 former public relations personnel, assistant coaches, trainers and equipment managers to receive that honor.
"Not only did he represent the organization unbelievably, he set the standard for the league," said Seahawks chief communications officer Dave Pearson, who interned under Wright in 1989, then was hired by Wright in 1998. "He was really the top P.R. executive for so many years. He just set the standard."
Wright began his 32-year Seahawks career as the expansion team's director of publicity in 1976, then was named public relations director in 1982, adding the title of vice president in 1987, and later transitioning into the role of vice president/administration.
Wright spent his entire NFL career in Seattle, but not for lack of options. According to longtime friend and co-worker Sandy Gregory, another original Seahawks employee dating back to 1976, Wright turned down offers to follow Chuck Knox to L.A. in 1992, and to join former Seahawks general manager Mike McCormack in Carolina. So respected was Wright in league circles that the NFL also tabbed Wright to run the P.R. operations at the Super Bowl 22 times.
"He ran that media center," Gregory recalled. "He set the standard—here's how we do things and how we take care of people. When Gary spoke, people listened. He got people's attention; people trusted him. The league trusted him to run the media center. That's a huge job… He loved doing his job and taking care of people."
In 1995, receiver Steve Largent had Wright present him at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony, marking the first time a public relations person held that honor often reserved for a player's former coaches, teammates or family members.
"He was instrumental with a lot of things that were going on with the Seahawks," Largent said. "He was just one of those guys who was a Steady Eddie. You could never get Gary in a tizzy, because he was always calm and collected. He represented the Seahawks so well for so many years.
"He was always under control and very mature, and having a person in that position, the guy who is kind of negotiating between players and media, having a guy who's calm and collected and mature, is really important for a franchise, and it certainly was for the Seahawks coming right out of the gates. He was just that kind of guy."
Largent praised the job Wright did introducing him to the Hall of Fame, but said it was the every-day interactions with Wright he enjoyed most.
"On a personal level, Gary has always been a great friend to me and a guy who I really admire," Largent said. "He would be the go-to guy if I needed to know anything about the Seattle Seahawks."
Said Gregory, "Gary was one of the most loyal and caring people. It didn't matter if you were the CEO or you were an intern, he would treat everybody the same. He just wanted to help people. He was always there to try to answer questions or help you do your job. He always made himself available and just had the best advice. I still go to him now when I have a question about something. He just has the right answer about everything."
Gregory's favorite Wright advice was his "Four Ps"—people, process, product and profit.
"People should be number one, and if you switch and make profit number one, you're not going to be successful," Gregory explained. "It's all about taking care of people, and that's what he has lived by."
Since his retirement, Wright has remained an important part of both the Seahawks and Sounders organizations, serving as a Seahawks ambassador and Sounders business consultant.
The Awards of Excellence winners will have their names displayed inside a designated area of the Hall of Fame Museum, and recipients will be invited to the 2022 enshrinement week and will be recognized in Canton in August at an event to be determined.
In addition to Wright, other Awards of Excellence recipients are assistant coaches Alex Gibbs, Jimmy Raye, Terry Robiskie, Fritz Shurmur and Ernie Zampese; athletic trainers George Anderson, Otho Davis, John Omohundro, Jerry Rhea and Fred Zamberletti; equipment managers Sid Brooks, Ed Carroll, Tony Parisi, Dan "Chief" Simmons and Whitey Zimmerman; and public relations personnel Joe Browne, Charlie Dayton, Joe Gordon and Jim Saccomano.