The trophy case was scarce. The résumé consisted of zero bowl appearances and zero winning seasons. At the start of the 2018 season, everything about Charlotte 49ers football had to be created by those within the walls of the university. It was that fall when walk-on quarterback Chris Reynolds and two-star freshman wide receiver Victor Tucker strolled into the facilities, hoping to be part of a regime which could improve upon their 1-11 standing from the prior year.
Four years later, Reynolds and Tucker rank among Charlotte’s all-time statistical leaders and serve as the bearers of culture for a rising program. But their journey to program stardom could have written its final chapter last November when Charlotte dropped its season finale to Old Dominion. Instead of riding into the sunset, both longtime program staples fervently committed to one last go-around in the Queen City.
“Back in 2017, I didn’t even know if I was gonna be invited to a fall camp. I was a walk-on and I was just grateful for an opportunity,” Reynolds said, explaining the lack of hesitation in his decision. “Now I’m presented with an opportunity that says, ‘Hey, you get to play a sixth year of college football. And you’re on scholarship now. And you get to be quarterback. With some of your best friends.’ That guy in 2017 would be punching me if I did not take that opportunity.”
Tucker similarly did not hesitate when reflecting on the reasons he returned to the 49ers for a fifth season. Although the city of Charlotte certainly held major influence on his decision, another factor served as an even greater coercion.
“It’s a great city. I’ve been there for five years and even outside of football, it’s always been an amazing experience for me,” Tucker said. “Then Chris Reynolds decided he was coming back. Those were the only two things that weighed heavily on my mind about whether I would come back.”
The commitment Reynolds and Tucker share to each other and to the program is immeasurable. Every C-USA team brought one offensive player and one defensive player to the conference’s media day in Arlington, TX on July 27 — with the exception of Charlotte. Tucker hopped along for the ride to join Reynolds and defensive end Markees Watts as a third program representative at the event.
Reynolds and Tucker, both currently holding team captain status, initially manufactured their relationship during practices in 2018 because of one common interest — work ethic. Despite not having much else in common outside of the gridiron, Reynolds and Tucker developed an off-the-field rapport which quickly became lethal on fall Saturdays.
“It’s a good relationship. He’s weird in a good way,” Tucker said of Reynolds. “The work ethic to be honest — I think that was one of the things that brought us together because we come from two totally different backgrounds because our personalities are so different.”
That connection became especially evident in 2019 when Reynolds secured a full-time job as the starting quarterback. The two elevated each other’s games, evidenced by Tucker recording career-bests in receiving yards (909) and touchdown receptions (7) with Reynolds as his primary facilitator. That season, the two were at the forefront of a monumental occurrence in program history as Charlotte qualified for its first-ever bowl game.
Reynolds’ development as a passer correlated with tangible success in the win-loss column. Members of the Charlotte roster witnessed this rapid rise for the eventual Burlsworth Trophy finalist. Tucker, drawn to Reynolds’ passion and drive from day one, recalls a moment when many perceived the walk-on quarterback would be clinging onto bench status for the entirety his college tenure.
“His first year here, it was crazy,” Tucker said. “Our offensive coordinator at the time said, ‘Chris! Stand up! This guy will probably never play here but he works his tail off, day-in and day-out.’ And then a year or two later, Chris is the starting quarterback. That story is kind of the viewpoint of what he had to go through.”
Now, Reynolds ranks first all-time in 49ers history with 7,730 passing yards and 62 touchdown strikes — leading by a considerable number in both categories. Tucker is second in receptions and remains 778 yards away from surpassing Austin Duke as the program’s frontrunner in career receiving yards. Etched in the Charlotte record books with a chance to expand their impact, the duo’s significant legacy at the young program has been heralded by fourth-year head coach Will Healy.
“They are more Charlotte than I am. They’ve been here longer than I have,” Healy said. “All I want to do is make this place the most incredible place on face of the planet where they have the best experience they can possibly have because they deserve it. I know they’re not the only ones on our football team, but it sure is nice when you have these (guys) who are this dedicated to putting the program on the map.”
The climb isn’t done. Charlotte still has an array of checkboxes to address before Reynolds and Tucker move away from campus. The 49ers remain in search of their first bowl victory, their first conference championship, and their first season featuring more than seven wins. Given the inseparable quarterback-wide receiver connection guiding the offense, Tucker believes the 2022 version of Charlotte can be that special group which accomplishes these feats.
“We have the potential to be really explosive, but we can’t settle,” Tucker said. “I want us to continue to be hungry, continue to want to do more. If we continue improving our games individually, I think we’ll be great and have a great year.”