The story behind Morgan “Moose” Wright’s becoming an American Ninja Warrior.
It’s amazing what some daddies will do for their baby girls. Some dads dress up in unicorn costumes for Halloween, while some dads are coerced to quit smoking. Yet others step up to become American Ninja Warriors…well, at least one in Cape Coral did!
This is the story of Morgan “Moose” Wright, a P.E. teacher at Diplomat Elementary, who is now known to many as one of NBC’s “American Ninja Warriors,” all because of a request from his daughter, Josalyn.
You see, baby girl knew how athletic her daddy was, so for her 10th birthday, she requested that he apply for the show. She’d spent countless hours watching and analyzing the program’s competitions. Then, as any good dad would, Morgan made good on his birthday promise to her. Part of the application process involved submitting a video to highlight his TV “worthiness” and athleticism. Josalyn served as the film crew for her dad’s application.
As a veteran of Afghanistan, Morgan had the physical endurance needed to compete. Plus, he had a yearning for competition. Added to that was his boxing experience while enlisted and mixed martial arts (MMA) after the military. It was a recipe for a Ninja in the making.
Morgan attended Officer Candidate School to finish his college education and, after his first year of teaching, he was deployed. In active service from 2004-06, he completed his service in 2006 having attained the rank of 1st LT. He then began obstacle course racing known as “mud runs” and returned to teaching. This teacher Ninja has been named Teacher of the Year four times and was the first P.E. teacher to receive the coveted Golden Apple in 2013.
So, back to the TV show…out of 75,000 applicants, Morgan was one of 625 called to compete in Season 8 (2016) where he made it to the 4th obstacle in the Atlanta qualifier. That’s where his silly moose hat was first noticed. Even though he’d been eliminated, he continued to cheer on the other competitors all while wearing the hat. (That same hat has also been used to keep the attention of his 950 elementary students.)
In 2017, he submitted a second application and was chosen for the Kansas City qualifier, in which he ran fast enough to qualify for the city finals the next evening. Again, he wiped out after beating the famous “Warped Wall” before finishing the full obstacle course; however, his time was fast enough to qualify for the top 15 which meant a trip to Las Vegas. At age 42, he was the oldest of all competitors and was running the obstacle course at 3 am, because filming takes place between 9 pm – 5 am to capture the best lighting effects. And all the while he was competing, the crowd was chanting, “Moose, Moose, Moose!”
Morgan has had to completely fund his trips to the city qualifiers; only if he makes it to the finals in Las Vegas does the show cover his expenses. For Seasons 8 and 9, he was frantically fundraising to be sure his family was part of the experience, cheering him on from the sidelines in Atlanta and Kansas City. Since competing in the show requires that he be away from his teaching gig 4-6 days at a time, he sends videos to his students reminding them to behave in his absence. Currently, he’s waiting to hear from NBC if his third application results in an invitation to return for Season 10.
What has been the most important “take away” from the reality show experience? “What people do with their 15 minutes of fame,” Morgan says. “I’ve enjoyed inspiring others to continue their fitness journey or start one. Like other folks, I want to be active as I age. I don’t know anyone who finished a workout and thought ‘That was a complete waste of time.’”
He has done lots of volunteer work and guest appearances for various age groups. “Children are often paying more attention than adults may realize,” Morgan explains. Some of his volunteer service is as an instructor at Tropical Twister Gymnastics here in the Cape.
In addition to keeping him personally motivated, his TV appearances have made teaching significantly easier. “I now have immediate buy-in from my students. Fitness has to be fun to keep kids’ attention.” As a high schooler, Morgan was under five feet tall, weighing in at less than 100 pounds. “After what I went through as a kid, my goal is to help other children find their strengths.”
Regardless of size or ability, Morgan’s students quickly learn that it’s OK to be kind when competing. “My students are very aware that manners are not going out of style in my classroom.” He also adds, “I strongly believe a well-run P.E. program sets the discipline for any elementary school.”
The benefits of his experience have also included family-focused fitness for his wife and children. Wife Lisa is regularly working out at Omni Fight Club, while daughter Josalyn is constantly straining to beat dad’s time in long distance running. Son Jaxon is already participating in obstacles for kids.
As a father, Morgan doesn’t give weekly allowances to his children. Instead, he rewards them for fitness. Each mile is worth $1, and 25 push-ups earn 25 cents. After seven years of doing this, he’s had to revamp his payout system as Josalyn and Jaxon’s endurance has increased. “At their best, I was paying out $40 a week per child. As they have gotten better, I’ve increased the difficulty a bit,” Morgan declares. “They can still earn $40+ weekly though.”
To see Morgan’s “American Ninja Warrior” competitive play, search YouTube for Morgan Moose Wright. Whether you’ve watched the show or not, it’s quite remarkable that we have a reality TV show personality living among us in the Cape just like he’s a regular Joe. Well, make that a regular Moose.