Arkansas captain Robert Thomas is spending time on crutches and in a wheel chair after breaking his tibia against South Carolina, but the senior defensive tackle used the platform Wednesday to thank almost everyone.
"I thank God for the opportunity," Thomas said, "I thank Coach Bielema for putting that much trust and faith in me, I thank Arkansas, I thank the (coaching) staff here, because this is where I became a man because I came here a boy."
Thomas will miss the rest of the season, but head coach Bret Bielema isn't going to allow the senior leader to be forgotten. Starting last week when Byran Jones wore the No. 98 jersey of Thomas, he'll let the Muskogee product pick a player to be No. 98 each week.
"That's an honor and a blessing," Thomas said at a press conference called because so many media requests. "I never thought anything like that would happen.
"I've got a few guys in mind. I picked Byran first because I knew he would go out and be Byran. I know him better and wanted him to be first. He had to be first.
"It was tough not to be out there with them. It killed me. I sat with my wife and family and watched. It's rough. I've never been on that side of it."
Thomas said he was surprised when Bielema came to him with the idea of picking players to wear his jersey.
"He wanted to know how I felt about it," Thomas said. "He came to me before he announced it to the team."
Thomas said there will be some players who can't wear the No. 98 since it can't be an interior linemen on offense and his jersey is extra, extra large.
"It has to be a big framed guy," he said. "Only the bigger guys can wear it. I've got a few guys in mind. But Travis Swanson can't wear it since he's the center. There are some of the guys on the team that can't. It might have to be a defensive linemen."
For instance, cornerback Jared Collins, one of the smaller Razorbacks, wouldn't be a candidate.
"I don't think so," Thomas said. "He might can sleep in it."
Thomas said the injury happened when Jones "slung his man down and his helmet hit my leg." Jones regrets that with all of his heart.
"I'd do anything for him and he'd do anything for me," Jones said. "We call each other brother on and off the field."
Jones said there was a call from Thomas after the game.
"He continues to be a leader," Jones said. "He told me some good things that I did against Alabama, but he also gave me the bad. That's Robert being Robert, a great leader.
"I don't think he's going to change for us. He's going to be there for us."
Thomas said the Hogs still have a surge in them.
"I think we do," he said. "I think we can do that if we take care of some little things. We have to improve a few things and I think you'll see that."
Thomas Thankful for Opportunity
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