RIPLEY • Tristan Vandiver made it a goal early on his high school career to use his talents in football to help him further his education. He reached that goal when he signed to be a part of the football program at one of the top engineering schools in the country, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, on April 30.
“I was super excited,” Vandiver said of his signing. “ It was a moment that I've been looking forward to since I was a little kid. It's a huge blessing to be able to sit down with family and make decision for my future and to know that all the hard work that I've put in paid off.”
The 6-foot-2 quarterback threw for 940 yards and nine touchdowns in his senior season at Ripley. He added another 177 yards and a score on the ground.
Vandiver drew interests from several schools over the past two years due to his play on the field and on the summer camp circuit. The camps is what helped pave the way for the Rose-Hulman coaching staff to get an up close and personal look at Vandiver's skills, and from there a relationship was born.
“I met the coaches when I went to a mega camp outside of Chicago in the summer after my junior year,” said Vandiver. “There was probably close to 200 different schools there looking to recruit to their programs and somewhere around 400 kids there at the camp. I was one of about 40 quarterbacks there. Half way through the camp, I was warming up because we were about to time our (40-yard dashes). Their coaches talked to me for a little while and told me they were looking at me and that they wanted me to show out. That meant a lot to me that they took the time to show interest in me. They finally offered me after the camp. Since then, I've had time to look at them and find out what they are about. I went on a visit in late January and it felt like home. It's a nice campus. It wasn't very big and that just made me feel comfortable. Everybody was super nice and friendly. I just really liked the time I spent there.”
As much as being a part of a good football program meant to Vandiver, the academic side of things weighed much heavier in his decision on where to attend college. Vandiver recently graduated from Ripley where he was named the salutatorian, garnering a 4.0 GPA.
“The academic side was probably the biggest part of my decision,” claimed Vandiver. “I thought I was going to go to Florida Tech. They have one of the top aerospace engineering programs in the country. But when I went Rose-Hulman on that visit and prayed on it, I felt like going there was the best decision. I'm going to major in mechanical engineering with focus on aerospace. They are really good with job placement. It is somewhere around 99 percent of their students will have a job by the time they graduate.”
Vandiver will join a crowded quarterback room as the Fightin' Engineers bring back six signal callers from last year's squad, including their starter. With plenty of competition in the way, Vandiver looks to make a name for himself early on by being a good teammate until his opportunity comes.
"I believe their senior quarterback got injured last year so their junior quarterback took over," said Vandiver. "The coaches said he did a good job and that they were happy with him starting. But they said come fall camp, it'll be an open competition. I think they are looking for me to be the backup. They have all the talent and competition there to be a really good team next year. I'm planning on going in and doing my best, pushing the starter to get better and be whatever I need to be as a backup."
The Fightin' Engineers went 6-4 last season, including a 5-2 mark in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference on the NCAA Division 3 level. Their offense provided balance in both the passing and run games to help their offense average 395.8 yards per game (216.8 yards passing, 179 yards rushing), helping them to score 30.6 points per game on average.
The transition to their offense should be simple for Vandiver, who said his new offense looks similar to the one he has ran the past two seasons.
“It reminds me a little of the stuff we ran at Ripley,” stated Vandiver. “The have some read-option runs and they add that with some power runs. They just mix all that in together. The past four years had an incredible running back. The fact that they still had balance on offense with him being as good as he was is incredible. I think their passing game is featured around more quick passes and check downs. I think they want to get the ball out quick and let the play-makers do what they do. I like their approach and I think it suits me well.”
Vandiver moved to Ripley from Booneville before the start of his junior season, where he took over the starting quarterback role. With just two years as a Tiger, the now graduated senior says that his time at Ripley is something he will always remember and take with him all the way to Terre Haute, Indiana.
“Everybody was so awesome when I transferred in,” said Vandiver. “Things don't always go that smooth when a new kid moves in but everybody made the transition easy. Everyone was so nice and helpful in every way possible. I'm so thankful for the two years I spent at Ripley High School. I made some lifelong friends and people that I will consider like family for the rest of my life.”