MUSKOGEE, Okla. - Muskogee defensive tackle Robert Thomas (6-2, 311, 4.9) is a big man, but also has a lot of speed for his size.
That was very evident Thursday night as he sprinted down the sideline in an effort to help kick returner Brenton Boger take one to the house.
Thomas wasn't on the kickoff team, but he was just flying down the sideline yelling encouragement to Boger, whose 85-yard return on the last play of the third quarter proved to be the winning points as the Roughers down Claremore 10-7 in a District 6A-3 match-up.
"That kick return helped us out tremendously," Thomas said. "We needed that. He gave it to us in a time of need. Help put us back into the right frame of mind to go out and win this."
The win kept Muskogee (5-2, 4-0), who visits Sapulpa next week, on pace for a Halloween night showdown with Jenks that looks like it will be for the district title.
By that time, it appears that Thomas – once a Kansas State commit – will be a Razorback one.
Thomas, who had 12 tackles unofficially during the game, made it clear Thursday night that he was no longer committed to the Wildcats and would have good news for the Razorback coaches soon.
"I am going to put it like this – it's coming," Thomas said. "Might be by the end of this week. There are just so many pluses about Arkansas for me. I am going to be over to see them play Ole Miss (next Saturday).
Thomas got to know Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino and UA defensive tackle coach Bobby Allen while at camp this summer.
"The head coach is amazing," Thomas said. "He is one of the best coaches I have met. He is down to earth. Coach Allen is amazing, too. I love it down there."
Kansas State offered Thomas first and he committed to the Wildcats before Arkansas put an offer on the table.
He notes that both Petrino and Allen have made him feel extremely wanted since then.
"It is a big plus to be wanted so much like that," Thomas said. "They really make me feel that they want and need me and that they think I can be a special player for them."
It certainly doesn't hurt Arkansas that Fayetteville is a mere two hours from Muskogee while Kansas State's campus is 5-plus hours away.
"Being close to home is both what I want and need," Thomas said. "It is just a short drive."
Muskogee head coach Matt Hennesy knows he has a big-time talent in Thomas.
"He's a beast and when he goes hard, he is very, very hard to block," Hennesy said. "He's getting better all the time, learning how to play the game."
Thomas, who also lines up at fullback and on the offensive line for the Roughers, bench presses over 500 pounds.
"He is just so athletic and so big and strong," Hennesy said. "When you bench over 500 pounds and run a 4.9, there are a lot of things you can do with him and take advantage of.
"We have him doing a lot of things," Hennesy added. "We play him at fullback in certain formations, he runs the ball some. He is a great athlete."
Thomas was a standout last year, but has become even a bigger force since fellow defensive tackle Stacy McGee moved on to play for the Oklahoma Sooners as did wideout Jameel Owens.
"I feel like I have improved a lot since last year, but I am not at the peak I should be yet," Thomas said.
"I am learning how to use my quickness, which is something especially with how big I am, along with my strength," Thomas said. "I am also learning how to use my swim move and my club wrist so I can be a better player."
Thomas spent the entire night on Thursday battling with a pair of blockers on each play.
"It is not that big of a thing to me anymore," Thomas said. "I am learning how to beat it every play now."
Hennesy knows that Thomas has developed an affinity for Arkansas.
"It is close to home and they had a big win last week," Hennesy said. "They look like they are moving in the right direction."
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