To reach 307 was going to take some hard work. It seemed that it may not happen and the record set by former Charlotte linebacker Jeff Gemmell in 2019 of 306 total tackles would stay as the Charlotte 49er season was on pause for over a month due to COVID-19. Ben DeLuca, however, rose to the challenge and was able to break the record on Dec. 6 the 49ers' home game against Western Kentucky.
The redshirt senior was destined for success with the Niners out of high school as he had 127 career tackles at Bishop Moore High School. DeLuca was a star player that delivered three district championships to the school. DeLuca chose Charlotte and it was the right choice as it would lead to much success with the Niners.
DeLuca hasn’t always had the easiest road to success and at one point it seemed like his football dream could have ended in 2019. DeLuca suffered a severe shoulder injury against the Appalachian State Mountaineers on Sept. 7, 2019 which ended his season prematurely. He put in the work and was able to get back on the field this season and do the unthinkable.
“Ben never makes excuses and he is a true leader on our team,” said 49er head coach Will Healy.
DeLuca had one goal which was to get back on the field. After months away from his teammates and the football field he made his triumphant return. He put together a fantastic season and after the Duke game on Halloween night he was tied for being Charlotte all time leading tackler with 306.
Then another hurdle was thrown in the way with Covid-19. Six weeks would come and go with no football. Multiple cancellations and postponements made things hard for the team but through it all DeLuca stood tall. He would lead the team through the tumultuous times to the game on Sunday, Dec. 6 against C-USA opponent Western Kentucky.
The Niners struggled in their first game back and lost 37-19 against the Hilltoppers. DeLuca though was the one bright spot for the Niners and the time came for the record to be broken. DeLuca would finish the game with seven total tackles which would be enough.
“Just to be mentioned in the same light as the people that came before me is humbling,” said DeLuca.
Former record holder Jeff Gemell would take to twitter to congratulate DeLuca on the achievement. Gemell would go on to call DeLuca the greatest of all time. Gemell passed the torch on a record that many thought would be unbreakable.
Nobody was happier for DeLuca than Healy, who had much praise to give in his post-game interview.
“It is an individual award but Ben deserves it because he is so selfless” said Healy.
DeLuca, who is a senior, could come back for one more season as the NCAA gave every athlete another year of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked about the record he had just broken DeLuca seemed to reflect in his post-game interview on how far he had come. Through injury and an unpredictable season he has strived for success, DeLuca hasn't backed down.
“It has been an honor to be a part of the process here at Charlotte,” said DeLuca. “It's incredible that I can etch my name in the stone of history.”