KINGMAN - The last time the Texas Wesleyan University Rams were on the football field, they finished the season as conference co-champions and were emerging as a football power.
That was in 1941. The following year football went into hiatus with the start of World War II and it never returned to the Fort Worth school.
The university voted to reinstate football earlier this year, and the Rams have signed a redshirt class of about 50 players in preparation for their first game in 75 years in 2017.
One of those players recently signed by Texas Wesleyan is Kingman Academy High School's Tristen Pitts. Pitts, a 2016 KAHS graduate, played safety and was the punter/place kicker for the 1-9 Tigers. He led the team in tackles with 120. As the punter, he led all of Arizona with a 46.4 average per punt and finished No. 3 in the country. Those numbers led him to being named to the 2016 Max Preps Small Schools All-American Second Team Defense.
"Tristen brings a lot to the table," said Texas Wesleyan Special Teams/Defensive Coordinator coach Paul Duckworth. "He played defensive back, punter and kicked PATs, so he has a lot more to offer than just one thing. We found he's very persistent and the type of kid we're looking to get."
Pitts was a little picky with his decision of where to play football. He had several schools similar to Texas Wesleyan interested in him, but the Rams offered him something the others couldn't.
"It has my major, exercise science and physical therapy. That was a big part in this whole thing," the former Tiger said. "It was hard telling coaches no because they didn't have my majors."
Pitts has shown he'll go the extra mile to get things done. He went to kicking camps during his high school career to become a better punter and placekicker. Those visits enhanced his kicking skills, but it's the total package he came home with that drastically improved Kingman Academy's special teams.
"The neatest thing is that Tristen taught his kid brother (Seth) how to snap," said Kingman Academy football coach Dan Stroup. "He took part in the snapping portion of those camps just so he could come back and teach his brother. We only had one mess-up last year."
Tristen's parents, Leigh and Levi, invested plenty into his kicking. They had to not only pay for the camps, they had to pay for their travel and time spent away from Kingman doing so. They've got typical parent worries, but they're anxious to see his growth.
"He's going 15 hours away, and it's just hard seeing your kid go off to college," Leigh said. "But I'm excited for him. I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of training he'll get in college in comparison to all those camps."
Tristen Pitts has been awarded an opportunity few football players ever get, even those who play for colleges such as Alabama and Ohio State. The foundation Pitts helps to form is truly one from the ground.
"I'm excited about that," he said. "One of their biggest recruiting pitches to me was that we can set the standards for not only our team, but for future teams."
In 2017, Texas Wesleyan will play in the NAIA Central States League that includes Arizona Christian (Phoenix).