2024 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Tristan Wheeler, LB, University of Richmond
- Name: Tristan Wheeler
- Position: LB
- College: University of Richmond
- Height: 6’ 1”
- Weight: 225
- Twitter: TWheels24
- Instagram: t_wheels24
What makes you a top prospect at your position in the 2024 NFL Draft?
What makes me a top prospect in my position is my productivity on the field, my ability to lead, and the hunger that I attack each day with. In the last four seasons, I have earned 4x All-Conference and 4x All-American honors along with other accolades. I believe that this is a result of my constant effort and presence around the ball. I also show the ability to play sideline to sideline and excel in all aspects of the game. I am also extremely productive on kickoff coverage, which allows me to be valuable on special teams as well.
Besides the statistics and awards, I believe that I am able to relate to players and lead by my actions. Because of this, I was honored to be voted captain by my teammates for two consecutive years. I take pride in being someone that my teammates can look to for guidance.
Finally, I attack each day with a relentless hunger to be the best person and player that I can be.
At what age were you first interested in the sport of football?
I’ve been playing football since I was 5 years old. Although I played lacrosse, baseball, and basketball too, football was always my favorite sport. There’s no other sport where you need to be a complete athlete and work so in sync with your teammates to be successful. No other sport compares.
What is one thing that NFL teams should know about you?
One thing that NFL teams should know about me is that not only would I be a great asset on the field and around the facilities, but also in the community. When it comes to football, there would never be any worry about me not doing the little things right. I come to work every day with the “first man in, last man out” mentality and treat football as a business that I take extremely seriously.
Outside of football, I am a Christian man who takes pride in being a man of God. These values lead me to enjoy helping and giving back to the community in any way that I can. At the end of the day, my goal is to leave a place better than I found it.
If you could donate to one cause in the world, what would it be?
I would donate to Actions Against Hunger and any other organizations that aim to feed malnourished people and communities. As athletes in a sport where nutrition is key to our health and success on the field, we often take for granted the unlimited access to food that we have. We even begin to dislike food as we force-feed ourselves to gain weight and get in extra calories. When complaining about having to eat 5+ meals a day, I will often catch myself and reflect on how blessed I am that that is even a complaint that I have, because this is not the case for millions of people around the world. No one should have to wake up wondering if they will have a meal to eat that day and it is something that I would love to help make a change to.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
The best advice that I have ever received was, “Whatever you do, give it 100%. The way you do one thing is the way you do everything.” This piece of advice was something that I heard during youth football and through my time at the University of Richmond. Whether it’s making your bed, studying for a test, or training for football, be present in that moment and give it your best effort because how you handle and attack the mundane and sometimes “unimportant” tasks is how you handle and attack life. Every little thing has a direct impact on how successful you are and what type of person you want to become.
Who was your childhood hero?
My childhood heroes were my parents for multiple reasons. First, they instilled in me what it means to work hard. Watching how hard the two of them work showed me what it meant to grind and have passion in what you do. Secondly, the support they had for me throughout this process was above and beyond. They are truly my number one fans and have done everything in their power to get me to the point I’m at and achieve my dreams. From taking me to practice, paying for camps and training, and never missing a game, they truly went above and beyond and I hope to repay them someday for everything they have done for me.
Who is the most underrated teammate in your locker room at your school?
There are so many underrated guys on our team but one group I want to shout out is the guys on the scout team. Although it may not be the most fun thing to do and can get tiresome, the scout team is one of the most crucial pieces to success. It is imperative that the scout team gives a great look with great effort so that when the game comes around on Saturday, it feels as if we already played the game several times at practice throughout the week. Our scout team does that. They give great effort, and enthusiasm, and take pride in helping out our team. They are guys that never complain and do whatever it takes to help the team achieve the goal of winning. These guys deserve a lot of recognition and love.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve is easily hearing someone chew their food… It’s awful. There’s just something about it that I cannot get over. My roommate is the biggest culprit. When he’s eating and I give him the look, he knows what he’s doing wrong. I still love him though. Shoutout to Tom Elia!!
Overcoming adversity is what defines character, what was the hardest moment in your life to overcome?
My pop-pop was always such a big fan of mine and loved to support me throughout all my years of playing different sports. Whenever I’d go over to his house we’d have a game on the TV, talk about my most recent game, and dream about my goals of playing D1 college football and making it to the NFL. Unfortunately, he passed away early into my high school football career, and didn’t get to see all our dreams slowly become reality. Losing him and the support he brought was extremely hard for me to process but I constantly remind myself he’s sitting in the stands in heaven supporting me as he did when he was here. Ever since his passing, I’ve had a picture of him and I taped it under my shoulder pads from high school until now, and I look at it before every game to remind myself to play for him and that he is watching over me.
Tell me something about your school and why it is so special to you?
I believe that the University of Richmond is special because it is smaller than many of the schools we play and see all over the country. With an undergrad of a little more than 3,000 students, we don’t have a big student population or a lot of faculty on campus, but the support is that of a large-sized school. As I walk the halls and the dining center, there are constantly students and staff showing their ways of support for the team and I. The surrounding community also does a great job supporting and reaching out to us with support through social media and their attendance at games. Finally, alumni are amazing. They’re always finding ways to give back to the athletes, show faces around the programs, and give their support. None of this goes unnoticed.
What is your favorite snack food?
My favorite snack food is definitely some teriyaki beef jerky. Just cannot go wrong with it…except for the price. Thank God for our dining dollars allowing me to clean the beef jerky shelves out at the on-campus convenience store!
What is the best part of football?
There are so many things that I love about football, but the one thing that I love the most is seeing work translate to the field of play and the progress that is made when you dedicate your time and energy to your craft. Whether it’s film study to help diagnose plays and formations quicker, lifting to get bigger, faster, and stronger, or rehab to recover your body, there is no better feeling than putting in the work and seeing the positive results that come from it. It is an extremely rewarding feeling that motivates me to keep pushing forward.
If you could sell yourself in one sentence what would you say?
With my strong passion for faith, family, and football, you’ll get a man with Christian values that will take care of his business on the field, off the field, and in every aspect of life.
If you could compare your play to one player in the NFL who would it be?
I would compare my play to linebacker, Eric Kendricks, of the Chargers. Although he doesn’t have a great size in terms of height, he plays bigger than he is physically. He is an extremely smart, physical, and athletic LB that shows the ability to tackle, pass rush, and cover. He is an extremely well-rounded player with a high motor and great production. I think all of these attributes and skills resemble my play as a linebacker.
If you could have dinner with three people dead or alive, who would it be and why?
If I could have dinner with three people it would be God, Luke Kuechly, and David Goggins. First, I would love to sit down with God and just ask a million questions about life and the Christian religion. Why wouldn’t you want to sit down with the creator of the universe?
Second, I would sit down with Luke Kuechly because he is an all-time great at the linebacker position and is extremely smart and skillful. I would love to talk ball with him and learn specifically about his experiences, training, and how he studies film.
Finally, I would love to have dinner with David Goggins because he is considered the most mentally tough person ever. His experiences and uprising are truly inspiring. His mental strength and determination are second to none. I would love to ask him more about his life experiences and how he maintains such a high level of drive and performance after everything he’s been through. If you don’t know about David Goggins, I encourage you to go look him up on YouTube and read his books!