Tristan Bounds should, in an alternate universe, have been playing football this weekend. The first weekend of September, in that alternate universe, is the opening weekend of Connecticut’s high school season — when nine months of offseason work finally come to fruition.
Instead, Bounds was at Arooga’s Sports Bar in York, Penn., watching two of his future Michigan teammates — JJ McCarthy and Greg Crippen — play on ESPN. And as Bounds turned his attention between the TV and the basket of wings in front of him, he grappled with seeing his friends experience a senior season that he never will.
“It’s cool for me to see, even though I can’t play,” Bounds told The Daily. “… I still get to watch some of those guys play football. So I’m vicariously playing through them.”
Watching his future teammates, though, carries a weight of frustration, too.
He understands the decision to cancel football and that nothing he says is going to change that outcome. It’s a decision he feared was imminent as soon as May, and he doesn’t want to live in the past, agonizing over a decision he had no control over.
Still, watching high school football go off with minimal hitches in other states nags at him.
“I was definitely sad for myself, for my teammates (when the season was canceled),” Bounds said. “We worked really hard this offseason to get ready for the season. So definitely upset, frustrated, a little bit sad.”
But Bounds’s frustration is mitigated by his future. While many of his teammates at Choate Rosemary Hall have been stripped of the last football games of their lives, Bounds has at least four years of football ahead of him.
That, he says, is why he’s more upset for them than he is for himself. It’s also why, as soon as the official decision to cancel the season came down in mid-July, Bounds turned his mind to the future. Even if Connecticut schools play in the Spring, Bounds won’t be playing, choosing to prepare for his college career instead.
That preparation has taken him to Mike Dillon, one of the top technical trainers in the country. Through his work with Dillon, as well as putting on “good mass” in the weight room, Bounds is hoping to take advantage of the canceled season to improve in ways he wouldn’t have been able to with a full fall slate.
“Pretty much the conversations with (Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner) are just to continue doing what I’m doing and show up to campus as the best version of myself ready to compete,” Bounds said.
And despite the Wolverines not having a fall season either, Bounds is confident in his decision to commit earlier this summer. “Ever since I committed, I’ve had zero doubt that I made the right decision,” he said.
That’s an attitude shared by Michigan’s other recruits, according to Rivals Recruiting Insider EJ Holland.
“(They) know that Michigan has done everything the right way,” Holland said. “… (They) know Michigan wants to play.”
For Bounds, the confidence extends beyond the desire of Michigan — and by proxy, Jim Harbaugh — to play. What matters to him, he says, is the way that Harbaugh and the Wolverines’ coaching staff have prioritized players through the pandemic.
Even with the cancelation of the Big Ten season, it encourages him to see Michigan going through with practices and emphasizing player development, all while preventing an outbreak amongst the team.
“The way that Michigan’s handled itself through this just reassures me even more that I’m going to be in a great program,” Bounds said. “But I’m also going to be around a great person who really cares about me and the rest of my teammates.”