Everything Tristan Wells has gotten up to this point has been earned. Nothing has been given to him.
It will be the same when he steps on the campus of Jacksonville State as a preferred football walk-on in the fall. Wells on Wednesday signed an academic scholarship and committed to walk on at JSU. The signing ceremony was in the cafeteria at Talladega High School.
“I don’t shy away from work,” Wells said. “Coming into JSU, it is going to be as hard as everybody makes it. That’s what I want. I want to work for what I get. Earning what I got is going to mean more than them giving it to me.”
Wells said it is a blessing to be able to continue his academic and athletic careers with the Gamecocks.
Wells had other offers from some small schools, but his interactions with the JSU coaching staff sealed the deal.
“They treated me like I was already a part of the team,” Wells said. “I felt like I was already at home. They sat down with me and helped me out. That really meant a lot to me personally.”
Wells had a stellar 2018 season for Talladega. The senior linebacker recorded 107 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions.
Wells played a major role in leading the Tigers to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1994-95.
“It was great to change the perspective of Talladega football,” Wells said. “It was alway a lot of doubt towards us, but coming in my mindset was that we were going to change everything around here.
“Us coming in and winning really changed a lot. My mentality on defense was to dominate any and everybody that we play. I believe that jump-started the change at Talladega, and I am glad to have been a part of that.”
Wells not only got it done on the field for Talladega, he has also been a standout in the classroom. Having a high grade-point average and scoring 24 on the ACT opened several opportunities for Wells.
“Having a 24 on the ACT gave me a lot of leeway,” he said. “It gave me some aid financially. That really showed me that my academics paid off. Me putting in that work helped me get an academic scholarship.”
Talladega head coach Ted Darby was thrilled Wells has an opportunity to continue his academic and athletic careers at JSU. Darby is confident Wells can make an impact for the Gamecocks as a freshman.
“They got a steal,” Darby said. “He is going to be a heck of an inside backer. I promise you, by Christmastime, you are going to see some great things from Tristan Wells at Jacksonville State.
“I love all of my kids, but I am really going to miss that No. 7. From a defensive standpoint, he is a great kid.”
After being preached the same message by Darby for the past two seasons, Wells said it has become a part of his life.
“‘Losing is not an option,’ that is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” he said. “I don't want to lose in life, i don't want to lose in anything. I am definitely going to take that with me, it taught me a lot.”