Lamar Thomas Interview: Part 1

Lamar Thomas is one of the best receivers in University of Miami history. In an exclusive interview with CanesTime, he talks about his current situation, his feelings towards the Florida Gators, how Jimmy Johnson recruited him to Miami, and more in this first part.

What are you up to these days?

Well, I am in the process of trying to get a broadcasting gig for next year. I'm very disappointed with what happened last year but I'm not going to let it get me down or affect me. ‘Canes always rise to the top.

Any offers so far? Are you actively searching?

If anything falls my way as the season progresses or comes closer, I'll become more aggressive, but right now I'm just chilling out, playing a lot of poker and golf, and enjoying being retired.

You got into the whole poker craze? What kind of poker?

I play Texas Hold ‘Em.

Are you any good?

Yeah, I'm pretty good. As we're talking right now, I'm online playing. I play with the big ‘U' symbol as my logo. Actually, some guy got besides me at the table and said he was a big UM fan, and he didn't even know who I was. He asked me who I thought the quarterback should be and I told him that Robert Marve had a great chance. The he told me, ‘wait till you see Edgerrin's cousin'. I told him, ‘dude, I've seen him up close'. He said, ‘you must have gone to a couple of games, then'. I replied with, ‘man, don't you see my name? It says Lamar Thomas'. My username says ‘LamarT36' and this guy goes, ‘how do you get so close to the games'. I told him, ‘144 catches, 23 touchdowns, and 2 national championship rings'. He still didn't know who I was.

That must have made you feel old.

Nah, you see there's a lot of people who either like the ‘Canes or hate the ‘Canes. A lot of people just jumped on board because back in the day we were thought of as bad boys. We kicked people's butts though. I still get people coming up to me and talking about ‘Catholics vs. Convicts'. Well, I'd reply back, ‘I'm not in jail'. Some people went to Notre Dame and ended up in jail. We kind of got a raw deal with a lot of stuff, some of us brought it on ourselves, but overall we had a good bunch of guys that were just family. If I could have played for thirty years in college, I would have. It's just a good bunch of guys, it's a bunch of brothers.

So, you're playing golf and poker as a retiree. Are the competitive fires still burning?

Every day, man. I can truly say that that's something I learned at the University of Miami. I learned how to compete. If you can't compete, you can't go there. Look at Bryan Fortay. He couldn't compete and he had to leave. There (are) guys that transfer from Miami all the time because they can't compete. That's what Miami's always been about. Over the years I think we've lost a little bit of edge over that, but I think Randy is going to get that back. Competition made you a better player and it made your team better, because you were always afraid of the guy behind you taking your spot.

That Notre Dame rivalry was intense. Bill Hawkins (Miami defensive end '85-'89) spoke about the nicknames you guys got. He mentioned Catholics vs. Convicts but also one I hadn't heard, Angels vs. [Expletive].

Yeah, we had a bunch of names over the years. The name I really truly like was that last one. When they'd call me that I'd tell them I have two national championship rings and that'd usually get them out of your face.

Let's talk about the start of your career. One thing I always wondered is how a high school senior from the Gainesville area ends up at Miami instead of being a Gator. I know there have been a handful of guys, but how does that work out?

Unfortunately, and I have to admit this, I was a HUGE Gator fan growing up. I loved the Gators. I was Orange and Blue all the way up until I made a business decision. I tell people point blank that it came down to the X's and O's. When I say X's and O's I mean the following. I could have gone to Florida, and I would have been a great blocker for Emmett Smith. I wanted to go to Miami and catch passes like Michael Irvin, so it was a no-brainer. I upset a lot of people in Gainesville, but I had to make a business decision. The one thing I didn't want to do is be stuck there in Gainesville in case something happened and I couldn't go anywhere else. My dad always told me, ‘son, I'm putting it on you'. One of the things he would ask me when I would come from a school visit was, ‘how do you feel'? He didn't ask me what I thought about the classrooms, the partying, the facilities, just how I felt. That's why when it's my kids' turn to go to school, I'm going to tell them that it's their decision and just ask them how they feel. I thought that was a great thing he did for me, and I thank him all the time for it?

My brother actually just signed a scholarship to go to the University of Florida to play baseball. I'm happy for him, and I told him it was ok. He didn't want to tell me about it because it was Florida, but I told him that he had to make decisions that are best for him. I had to do it, and he had to do it to. For him it was a no-brainer. He grew up being a ‘Canes fan, he grew up watching ‘Canes football and baseball, but they didn't really recruit him. So he made a business decision, and I'm happy for him. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to wear that split jersey when they play each other.

There's no way Lamar Thomas is going to wear a Florida Gators jersey. The universe would collapse.

I think it's just talk, to be honest. I don't know if I'll go through with it (laughing), but it sounds good for an interview.

Who recruited you for Miami?

Jimmy Johnson. JJ and Don Soldinger. They were straight shooters. My dad asked Jimmy, ‘when will my son be able to start'? Jimmy looked at him straight in the eye and told him, ‘Start? Hell, I can't even promise you that he'll play in his four years at Miami, but I can promise you that he will compete against the best athletes day in and day out, and by the time he's a senior, he'll be much further along than a guy who goes to Kentucky and starts as a freshman'. It was a no-brainer. I sat there and I took it as a challenge. Everyone else is promising me playing time, he's promising me that I'll be on the team. I'll tell you this too. Back in the day, the kids that went to Florida State and Florida, they didn't go there because of competition. They went there because coaches lied to them and told them, ‘hey, you'll be a starter someday'. I heard it myself. Miami told them point blank, if you can get on the field and stay on the field, and that was a big if, you'll be alright.

Well, you made it.

Oh yeah. I just popped in a tape of my first catch at Miami. It was vs. Wisconsin -- first game of the year. I remember the play. Craig (Erickson) rolled out, I took an inside release. I was supposed to take it outside, but I was a redshirt freshman, and hey, I was able to make it. Craig rolled out to the left and hit me for 17 yards, and that was my first catch.

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