HENDERSONVILLE – West Henderson football standout Tristan Thomas found his college home at Carson-Newman (Tenn.).
Thomas was an All-Western North Carolina Athletic Conference and Citizen-Times All-WNC defensive back/tight end for the Falcons (9-4) last fall, who made 93 tackles (70 solo) with five interceptions and four pass deflections.
On offense, Thomas hauled in 23 receptions for 303 yards and a touchdown. No one else on the roster made more than two catches.
As a special-teams player, he had 24 punt returns for 185 yards and eight kickoff returns for 217 yards and a touchdown.
For the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Thomas, his game was always about versatility. After playing safety, returning kicks, and catching passes for the Falcons, Thomas has signed to play safety with Carson-Newman. Even when confined to one position, his versatility is what made him a great fit, said West Henderson coach Paul Whitaker.
“(Carson-Newman likes) his size, and his ability as a free safety to not only be able to play the pass, but also be big enough to get inside down in the box and play the run, which a lot of safeties have to do now against spread offenses. They see him as a hybrid who can do both,” stated Whitaker.
Thomas said that he enjoyed playing multiple positions because it allowed him to help in as many ways as possible on the field. He wished that he could continue to do so, but he knew that he would likely stay at safety for the Eagles. He was willing to make those sacrifices for a program that he immediately saw as his new home.
“As soon as I walked in the football facility, I was welcomed. One of the first things I saw was a player interacting with a coach. It was really cool to see how the coaches interacted with the kids, and I knew it was an environment that I wanted to be a part of,” said Thomas.
Whitaker saw Thomas as being a consummate leader and teammate at West Henderson. Thomas’s ability to serve as a role model on and off the field was important to the team, according to the coach.
“He’s one of those guys who bought into the weight room program and the offseason program every year. And it wasn’t just the football part of it; he was also an excellent student in the classroom,” said Whitaker.
The role of a person to be looked up to also became a strong motivation for Thomas, who said that his little brother and parents were the people who helped to get him to where he is as a college signee.
“It had a lot to do with my parents, with them pushing me, and also having my brother there to set a standard for him to look up to,” Thomas said.
From his heroics on the field to his actions off of it, Thomas always found a way to help. And although a transition from Falcons to Eagles may not be a big one, it was his versatility that allowed Thomas to fly.