NEW BRITAIN - Surrounded in an auditorium full of family, friends, teammates and coaches, Tristan Wallace smiled, put pen to paper and made it official. He will be turning in the Friday night games at Veterans Stadium for ones on Saturday afternoons at the Western Athletic Complex.
On Friday morning, the New Britain senior signed his celebratory form with Western Connecticut State University to play football, where he will kick beginning this fall.
After being approached and recruited by multiple schools, it was a mixture of the family atmosphere the school provided, as well as the instruction he would receive from the coaching staff that ultimately sold Wallace on the Colonials.
“I went down there and the biggest thing for me was I didn’t want to hear what I wanted to hear,” Wallace said. “I wanted to be told what is going to make me better, so they told me, straight up, if you’re messing up on this, we’re going to tell you. They’re not there to be my friends. They’re there to make me better and that’s what I look forward to.”
Moving on to the next level is always an accomplishment for any athlete. Wallace, however, was able to do it after just one season.
A soccer player for 14 years, the senior decided to give football a try his final season in high school because he always wanted to play the game.
The move worked out well for both Wallace and his team, as he became one of the most consistent performers for the Hurricanes and provided them with a kicking and punting option they had lacked the year before. For Wallace, all that hard work he put in to making the transition from one sport to another came to fruition when he signed with Western Connecticut State.
“It’s a credit to him and how he transitioned from soccer to football,” said Justice Hairston, one of Wallace’s coaches at New Britain. “One thing that I appreciated from him and what I told his family was that he worked very, very hard. It’s a huge amount of pressure to go from a sport he’s known his whole life to something new. He took the challenge on and I know he’s going to take this challenge of going to college and I think he’s going to do very well.
“He’s a great kid. I’m so proud of him. He came in Day 1 with a clean slate and wanted to work and he did that.”
Throughout the short amount of time Wallace has been on the football field, the senior has been able to learn and adapt quickly and because of that, many of his high school coaches believe he has not even come close to hitting his potential and his best seasons are still to come.
“First time he kicked, I was like, ‘Wow,’” Hurricanes head coach Tebucky Jones said. “If he played four years, he’d probably be playing at a D-I school. But in that short time, he progressed fast. Anything we did, he picked up the stuff real fast. He should have no problem when he gets to college as he progresses and becomes stronger.
“He has the work ethic. I don’t like to be a fortune teller, but he has a really good chance to keep moving on [after college]. He’s only been doing this one year. He’s still raw, so who knows how far he can take it.”
As his senior year of high school draws closer to the end, Wallace will get ready to compete to earn the Colonials starting kicking job and continue the development he started back in August, something he is eager to get going.
But even now, as he is set to begin his next challenge on the football field, it will not be about the field goals or the home football games Wallace will remember the most. It will be the practice and time he spent with his teammates.
“Yeah, you’re going to miss the Friday night lights,” Wallace said. “You’re going to miss playing for your school, but those guys - the team - they had my back the entire season and I’m going to miss them. Some people are a team, but we were a family the entire year. They always had my back and I can’t thank them enough for it.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @DavidGlovach