Tristan Wheeler Named 2022 Chuck Boone Leadership Award Recipient

Richmond, Va.— University of Richmond redshirt junior linebacker Tristan Wheeler has been named the 2022 recipient of the Colonial Athletic Association’s Chuck Boone Leadership Award.

One of the highest honors presented yearly, the award is given to a junior or senior CAA Football student-athlete who embodies the highest standards of leadership, integrity, teamwork and sportsmanship in his academic and athletic achievements. The composite award encompasses three areas: academics, athletics and leadership.

One of the best to ever wear a Richmond uniform, Wheeler’s demonstrated leadership, commitment to his team and academic excellence has been on display since he stepped on campus in 2019.

Richmond’s ironman and team captain, the redshirt junior linebacker is one of the top defensive players in all of NCAA FCS Football. Wheeler has been a force since he stepped on campus, starting 35-straight games— the most of any Spider. He opened this season with a bang against Virginia, posting a career-high 19 tackles while adding 12 tackles against Saint Francis. He enters the FCS playoffs with 353 career tackles, including back-to-back 100-plus tackle seasons in his past two full seasons of football (2019 & 2021). He averages 8.8 tackles per game which ranks fourth in the CAA.

“Tristan’s awards and statistics speak for themselves. He clearly has showed excellence on the field, but what makes Tristan so deserving of this award is the leadership qualities he shows on campus and around the community of Richmond,” said head coach Rus Huesman.

He is one of two athletic representatives on the University of Richmond’s Board of Trustees where he meets and communicates with board members several times a year. He also serves on Richmond’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and is a member of the Spider Leadership Initiative, a new program at the University that exposes a selected group of student-athletes to purposeful and inclusive programming which relates to developing and exercising leadership skills. He is on the leadership team for Richmond’s pairing with Team IMPACT and has been a part of organizing the Richmond Alumni Golf Tournament with football alumni.

The Bethlehem, Pa. native is equally involved outside of the University of Richmond community. He organized a clothing drive of unneeded athletic gear to be delivered to a local fire stations around Richmond for the needy and has organized and led a youth football clinic in his hometown.

On the field, his accomplishments are nearly unmatched, with career highlights including the following:

National Honors/Awards/Highlights

  • Named one of 20 finalists for Jerry Rice Award in 2019 given to the best freshman in NCAA FCS
  • Named First Team Freshman All-American by Phil Steele
  • Led the NCAA FCS in tackles by a freshman with 104, becoming the first FCS freshman to reach the 100-tackle mark since 2017
  • Named one of 18 finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award in the spring 2021 season, presented by Stats FCS to the top defensive player in the country
  • Named Second Team All-America by Stats FCS in the 2021 spring season
  • Named Third Team All-America by HERO Sports in fall of 2021
  • Named First Team Sophomore All-America by HERO in fall of 2021
  • Named Second Team All-America by Stats Perform FCS in fall of 2021
  • Ranked eighth in the nation in the regular season in total tackles (114) and tackles per game (10.4) in fall of 2021
  • Named to the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List in fall of 2021 and 2022
  • Named Preseason All-America by Stats Perform in fall of 2021 and 2022
  • Named Preseason All-America by HERO Sports in fall of 2021 and 2022
  • Named one of 30 finalists for the 2022 Buck Buchanan Award

CAA Honors/Awards/Highlights

  • Named the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2019
  • Named Third Team All-CAA in 2019
  • Ranked sixth in the CAA in tackles per game at 8.7 as a freshman in 2019
  • Became the first true freshman in Colonial Athletic Association history to reach the 100-tackle mark in a single season in 2019 and was the first freshman of any kind to do so since Gage Steele (redshirt freshman) of James Madison in 2013
  • Named First Team All-Colonial Athletic Association in the spring 2021 season
  • Led the CAA with 9.5 tackles per game, ranking 22nd in NCAA FCS in the spring of 2021
  • In the fall of 2021, he was named First Team All-Colonial Athletic Association for his third career All-Conference honor and second-straight First Team honor
  • Led the CAA in total tackles in the regular season with 114 in 2021
  • Named Preseason All-CAA Football in 2021 and 2022

Institutional Honors/Awards/Highlights

  • Played in all 12 games, including starting the last nine as a true freshman in 2019
  • Tied for the team lead with 104 tackles as a freshman in 2019
  • As a freshman in 2019, he joined junior Tyler Dressler as the first pair of Spiders to both eclipse the 100-tackle mark in a single season since 2007 when Eric McBride (126) and Collin McConaghy (121) accomplished the task
  • Opened his career in 2019 with 12 tackles off the bench against Jacksonville (Aug. 29), the most in a season opener for a Spider since 2012. He then broke his own record with 19 tackles in the 2022 season opener at Virginia.
  • Led the team with 38 tackles during the spring 2021 season
  • Led the team in total tackles with 114 in 2021
  • Leads the 2022 Spiders with 97 tackles headed into the postseason

Wheeler has accomplished all this and more while working towards a degree in health studies from one of the most academically rigorous institutions in the country. He is a two-time Dean’s List recipient and has been named to the CAA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll four times.

“For more than three years, Tristan has stood out on a campus of standouts. We are grateful to have him as a Spider,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics, John P. Hardt.

The award is named after former Spiders football player and athletics director Chuck Boone. Boone was a member of the NCAA Executive Committee and the NCAA Championship Committee. He was a founding member of the Colonial Athletic Association and chairman of the 1AA Football Committee. In 2000, he was selected as the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Athletic Director of the Year. He retired in 2000 after more than 40 years of association with University of Richmond athletics.

First awarded in 2012, Wheeler is the first Spider to take home the monumental honor.

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