At this time last year Flint Northern standout Thomas Rawls was an undersized linebacker that wasn't receiving much interest from many major college programs. Then a successful transition to the running back position last fall uncovered a hidden talent that piqued the interest of a number of Big Ten schools. After a standout showing at Michigan's summer camp last month, the interest from said schools intensified. The 5-10, 210-pounder is currently sitting on offers from Central Michigan and Cincinnatti, but by sounds of things, it may not stay that way for long.
"A couple of schools are just waiting on my ACT score… and that is Iowa and Wisconsin," Rawls reported. "At Michigan I talked to Coach Jackson and he likes my style. He thinks I've got the right physique. He said I am on his board. He's still waiting on my test scores to come up. He said all I've got to do is work hard in the classroom and bring up my scores because he is really interested in me. (If the necessary scores are achieved), then it wouldn't be no problem playing down there at Michigan."
Michigan's decision to ratchet up the intensity on Rawls was likely the result of an in-person evaluation by the headman himself.
"We were doing some catching drills or whatever and (Rich Rodriguez) came over to watch," recalled Rawls. "He said I had real nice hands. I think that really impressed him."
At the moment the Flint star is gearing up to impress another coaching staff. Late last week the Michigan State Spartans rang his phone to express their growing interest.
"They want me to come down (to their one day camp in East Lansing today) so they can check me out and evaluate me up close," he said. "They want to see my agility drills and all that. They want to see my footwork and see some other stuff."
While the Spartans, (and later other schools that he visits), are taking a long look at him, Rawls plans to conduct his own evaluations.
"The biggest factor in my decision would have to be the coaches," he stated. "In this part of recruiting, they're all so nice and all that but it is kind of different when you get down there (on campus). That's why I want to go down to the colleges and see how they coach and all that and look at it that way."
When the time comes to make that final decision, Rawls will rely heavily on his inner-circle to help him reach it.
"My granny, my daddy, and my mother are all real supportive," said Rawls. "My father said, ‘you're becoming a grown man so you're going to have to make your own decision.' He believes whatever decision I make whenever everything falls into place, that I'm going to make the right decision and all that. My momma, she's doing the same way. My granny, she really doesn't know no better. She's like, ‘go to Central Michigan. I want you stay in state. If Michigan offers, go to Michigan.' But they're all being really supportive. They really like to ask me questions. We talk about a whole lot of stuff."
One of the things they talk about most is keeping an open mind regarding the schools on his list… a task that is sometimes easier said than done.
"I grew up as a Michigan fan," Rawls admitted. "I did not really get into college football until Mike Hart. I think he was a freshman or a sophomore, that's when I started liking Michigan. Coach Jackson writes me every week. Every time the mail comes, he wrote on something making sure that I'm alright and asking questions. He's really staying in contact."
"But I'm keeping my options open," he continued. "I like a whole lot of colleges, but I've got to look into a whole lot of things. That's why I can't really say too much about schools that haven't offered yet. When they offer I will look at their roster… who is coming back, who is leaving, who is doing this and that. My options are really open, but if Michigan…. I'm keeping my options open."