When coaches call Steven Fitzhugh asking about Class of 2022 prospect Tristan Wiley, Fitzhugh wants to make one point clear. Yes, Wiley is a record-breaking wide receiver for the Ouachita Christian Eagles, but he’s also the anchor leg for the school’s relay team.
“The mile relay is the last race of the day that often times may determine who wins the track meet,” said Fitzhugh, who serves as both the head football coach and track coach at OCS. “This is the tough man’s race. It’s not about who has the best speed, but who is the toughest? However far we’re down, you reel them in and make up the distance. If we get the baton and we’re in the lead, he’ll hold it. If we’re down, he’ll give everything within his body to make up the distance and win the race.”
Perhaps there is still some value in college coaches asking high school coaches about prospects after all. Fitzhugh's phone started ringing a little more frequently after Wiley recorded a Division IV/Class 1A State Championship Game record with 13 catches in a 62-41 loss against Calvary Baptist last year. Wiley also had 218 receiving yards and two scores in that game, as well.
Looking back on that performance, Wiley had a lot to be proud of, but he isn’t satisfied with the result.
“Obviously it was a lot of fun while the game was going on, but we lost in the end,” he said. “I didn’t even realize I had that good of a game until somebody told me, ‘Hey you broke records.’ Our offense will stay the same. I think it’ll be the same thing as we did last game. We’ll put points up against anybody, but our defense, we just have to be able to stop people a couple of times because we can outscore just about anybody in the state.”
That isn’t a wide receiver calling out his defensive teammates either. Wiley takes ownership because he plays that ironman football that OCS is known for. In fact, Fitzhugh was curious how many total miles Wiley ran in the Division IV State Championship Game, as he played offense, defense and special teams. He rarely came off the field during a game in which 103 total points were scored.
“He loves it,” Fitzhugh said. “He eats it up. He’s up here most weekends. He’s on the field or in the weight room. He’s usually doing something to get better.”
Wiley always had potential, but Fitzhugh noticed a change in his star wide receiver’s confidence back in 2019. Without quarterback Hunter Herring, the Eagles faced eventual 2019 Class 1A State Champions Oak Grove with then freshman quarterback Landon Graves. Graves and Wiley, who are close friends, had instant chemistry and Wiley produced 163 receiving yards in that OCS victory.
“He had a tunnel pass around the 15-yard line that he took the distance, and I think after that he was like, ‘OK…’ I think that gave him the confidence because from then on he carried that throughout the playoffs and ended up making All-State as a sophomore,” Fitzhugh said.
Next thing you know Wiley is getting offered by Air Force and Middle Tennessee, all the while being mentioned among DandyDon.com’s Top Class of 2022 Louisiana Prospects.
With Graves stepping in as the full-time starter, who knows what kind of numbers Wiley will produce in 2021.
“I’ve been best friends with him since elementary school,” Wiley said. “Hunter, he was a great quarterback. Probably the best I’ve ever played with, but whenever Landon was quarterback, I haven’t had a game under 150 receiving yards. He’s been my quarterback for a couple of games, so I’m excited to see what we can do this year.”
Count Fitzhugh among the many eager to see what the 6’3”, 185-pound receiver does in his final season with the Eagles.
“I think the thing that separates him a little bit from the others is he has both size and speed,” Fitzhugh said. “A lot of times you may have one who has the speed but doesn’t have the size. Tristan is a physical player too. I remember on kickoff return in the state championship game, it took seven guys to bring him down. He’s an aggressive blocker, as well. And he’s a very good corner.”
Wiley and his teammates have unfinished business after last season. Because he’ll rarely come off the field, Wiley will play a major factor in whether or not OCS finishes the season with a championship victory.