Over the last two football seasons, each of which ended with the Bryant Hornets winning a State championship, Tristan Sehika was named the Special Teams Player of the Year for the team.
“You look at it in the pros,” mentioned Hornets head coach Buck James, “how valuable those guys are that play well on special teams. There’s guys that make NFL clubs because they’re good on special teams and there’s guys that get cut from NFL clubs because they’re not good at special teams. Special teams is one third of the equation.
“Tristan has a special knack for special teams, for sure,” he continued. “A lot of it is just positive energy, wanting to be a difference maker.”
A linebacker, Sehika’s time on defense was limited until his senior season when he got into the rotation on the outside. His perseverance and hard work earned that increased time on the unbeaten Hornets team of 2019 and it further paid off, recently, as he signed a letter of intent to continue playing football at Hendrix University in Conway.
Tristan, the son of John and Lisa Sehika, said of his choice, “I talked to many schools but, I’m obviously a little small so none of the money was really right. When I talked to Hendrix, they’re mostly academics. I did a great job of keeping my academics up throughout my high school career and had a really high GPA (grade point average) and ACT score. That’s pretty much the reason I’m going to that school because they’re really high academic ballers. I like that a lot because college is mostly for education, not just to play ball.
“So, I’m very happy,” he asserted. “The coaches are great, really cool, up there also.”
James said, “He’s a great kid. There’s no doubt about that. He’s a tireless worker, a very unselfish player and a real team player. He did things to help our team whether it was on special teams, nickel packages or dime packages or whatever the case may be. He was johnny-on-the-spot. He was always consistent. He always gave his best effort. He’s smart and he is a very physical, tough, hard-nosed player.
“Depending on the scheme and what they’re doing at Hendrix, he could be a safety, a strong safety-type player; he could be an outside linebacker and he could even grow into an inside linebacker,” the coach continued. “He has a lot of possibilities. The thing that he can do is he can run.”
“I had a great time playing football at Bryant, mostly on special teams,” Sehika related. “That was where I shined the most, but I had a great time playing linebacker as well, really fun.”
Asked about the mindset needed to be good at special teams, Sehika said, “It depends on the special team. Like, on kickoff return, the mindset is sacrifice yourself pretty much. But, on kickoff, it’s just like run full speed and hit the crap out of someone, which was my favorite aspect of it.
“I can hit pretty hard,” he asserted. “But I was always about 50 pounds less than someone. I weigh like 180. I was a decent run stopper, but my favorite was coverage because I’m pretty fast. Zone coverage was my favorite time to be out there.”
Regarding the Hendrix defensive scheme and the coaches’ plan for him, he added, “They run like a weird package. They have on outside linebacker then two middle linebackers and like five defensive backs and four linemen. It’s mostly coverage and blitzing. That’s what I’m probably best at so that’s what I’ll probably be doing at Hendrix, hopefully. And, of course, special teams.”
James related, “They get a guy that can come in and play as a freshman and definitely help on special teams. I would say he’s our leading tackler the last two years without a doubt on all our special teams if not right up there with the best of them. He was very vital to our success.
I mean, our special teams that last two years with what Coach (Adam) Pendergrass has done with those guys, has really set the tone for our offense and defense. Tristan was a very big part of that.”
Reflecting on his high school career, Sehika said, “Of course, the (State championship) rings are going to last forever but, just the mindset that we had is unforgettable because we had a great time balling out together. We made friendships that will never really end. That’s the best part to me about that, two State championships, is that togetherness as a team.”
And he mentioned that, when he wasn’t getting the playing time he hoped for as a sophomore and junior, it was those teammates that helped him stick with it.
“They’re very motivating,” Sehika explained. “And I just like playing football.”
Since academics is a key to his choice, Tristan’s related, “I’m thinking about two different paths, kind of. One is a Biology major — and either way I’m going to minor in Spanish — or a pre-Law major. Law school is definitely an option after college. So, whatever classes I can take to prepare for that.
“I don’t like to argue as much, but I like to think of situations from both sides, like non-biased,” he added. “I like researching and finding out what the real data shows. That’s very up my alley. Criminal justice law is a path that I could do a lot with.”