How changing positions three times made Utah State running back Gerold Bright the player he is

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gerold Bright gets ready for the start of preseason camp for USU football on Wed. July 31, 2019.

Logan • Gerold Bright is a football chameleon.

Throughout his career, the Utah State fifth-year senior has played three different positions — and he’s shined at each one. It’s no wonder his 247Sports recruiting profile listed him as an “athlete.”

“I just embraced every position change,” Bright told The Salt Lake Tribune. “I just like being a guy that can be productive in whatever I do for the team and I like to have the ball in my hands.”

Bright, who is entering his senior season as the starting running back for the Aggies, was part of a one-two punch last year with Darwin Thompson, who was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in April. But now Bright’s the main guy at that position after a circuitous path brought him there.

Bright had always had his heart set on becoming a running back. But certain circumstances throughout his football career made that road much longer for the Aggie senior.

While at Escambia High in Pensacola, Florida, Bright was listed as an athlete, meaning he played multiple positions. He started as a running back there, but became the quarterback after the team’s QB suffered an injury during a practice and Bright proved he could excel the position.

Bright's recruitment to Utah State centered around him being an all-around player. So when he arrived there, the coaching staff placed him as a wide receiver. He made the best of the situation, he said, while still lobbying the coaching staff to try him at running back.

“Honestly, my heart wasn’t in it,” Bright said of playing receiver. “That’s not where I really wanted to be. But I still loved it. I grabbed onto it and did the best I could as I was there.”

Running backs coach Stacy Collins said Bright would sometimes be placed in that position while on scout teams in his early days at USU. Bright showed his explosiveness in those opportunities, which got Collins thinking the team could benefit with the ball in Bright’s hands.

Utah State running back Gerold Bright (8) scores a touchdown ahead of North Texas defensive back Jameel Moore (39) during the first half of the New Mexico Bowl NCAA college football game in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

That day finally came when David Yost became the offensive coordinator in the 2017 season, Collins said, ushering in a different style of offense that was better suited with Bright as a running back. Bright is officially listed as a wide receiver for that season, but his largest statistical output was as running back, where he amassed 249 rushing yards.

“I think when that position changed, it all kind of clicked together and he’s had two great seasons, especially last year,” Collins said.

In 2018, Bright racked up 888 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 141 carries.

Bright said playing each position has made him a better football player — quarterback made him a better receiver, and receiver made him a better running back. It allowed him to learn different aspects of the game and enhanced both his decision-making and his ability to read opposing defenses.

“All those positions, you just have to be a playmaker and be the best at those spots so that your team can depend on you,” Bright said.

Even Bright’s teammates have noticed how just shifting from receiver to running back has opened up his game.

“You could see right away that’s where he needed to be,” junior quarterback Jordan Love said. “Every day since then, he’s been getting better. His ability to run the ball, finding the holes, stuff like that, and his speed. It’s just tough to beat, tough to stop. … You have to be a special athlete to be able to do that.”

Bright made a point in the offseason to become an even better athlete. He gained weight by running with chains around his back and waist, helping him get to 190 pounds (he wants to reach 195 or 200). He worked on becoming a better blocker. He’s grown into what Collins called “another coach” in the meeting room, and is showing leadership both on and off the field.

“What he brings is great energy, enthusiasm all the time,” sophomore offensive lineman Alfred Edwards said. “So even on the days when we’re a little groggy or a little bit whatever, he’s going to bring the energy to boost us up.”

Bright has changed his jersey number exactly as many times as he’s changed positions on the field. His first three years he wore No. 25 because he didn’t have a choice in the matter, he said. Last season, he wore No. 8 to honor a former teammate who got hurt. This year, he’ll wear No. 1 for a reason that is quintessential Bright.

“I feel like I want to be number one,” Bright said.