Mississippi State opens the 2015 football campaign on the road in Hattiesburg as the Bulldogs take on the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss. Last season, Thomas watched the game from the sidelines as one of the Bulldogs' famous "Juice Boys". This season, the talented big man will be more than a casual obeserver.
With the season opener now just days away, Thomas is transitioning from towel waver to play maker.
"I am just basically learning everything I need to know," Thomas said of his game week focus. "I am trying to learn as much as I can about Southern Miss and how they block. The biggest thing is picking up the run and I am focused on doing that.
"I just want to do whatever Coach (David) Turner wants me to do and right now that's coming off of the bench to make plays."
Like most newcomers, Thomas hoped to see the field last fall. Due to depth at his position, the Bulldogs elected to redshirt the talented Thomas giving him a year to acclimate to life on the college level. While that decision was a bit disappointing at the time, Thomas is happy to have that year of seasoning under his belt and a full four years of eligibility remaining.
"I say all of that was real good," Thomas said of the redshirt year. "I had the chance to work with Coach (Rick) Court and them and I don't think it gets any better than that. I put on a lot of muscle and I just felt myself getting better as the season went on. I feel like I am a lot better player this year and I know I am a lot stronger."
Thomas has been the understudy for Mississippi State All-American candidate Chris Jones. Thomas reports that he has learned some tricks of the interior line trade by watching Jones operate.
"Both of us really have long arms, so I see him do things with his arms and I just try to work on them too," Thomas said. "When I am just standing around doing nothing, I work on some of those arm exercises.
"I have learned a lot from Chris as far as energy and how leads us. I have been picking up on a lot the little, small things he does. "
Another central figure in Thomas' life is good friend and fellow redshirt freshman, Braxton Hoyett. The pair of Alabama products developed a solid rapport with each other during the recruiting process. That relationship has continued to grow as the duo have learned about life on the college level.
"Me and Braxton just get closer and closer," Thomas said. "We just get to be better friends every year. We got to know each other in the 12th grade and last year we just got closer. He's like a brother to me. We are trying to push each other to where we need to be."
Knowing that expectations accompany playing time, Thomas admits his effort level has increased this fall knowing that he will be in Coach David Turner's rotation at defensive tackle this season.
"Coach Turner and everybody in the D line group has been riding me and telling me that I am going to have to step up this year," Thomas explained. "It's time for me to step it up.
"Coach Turner was telling me that he needs me to make plays. He never really changes. He is always going to coach you hard. I know he expects me to play hard too."
The Bulldogs will travel down on Friday and sleep late on Saturday knowing that their game will not begin until most others are nearly over. The 9 PM kickoff time is a little different, but Thomas reports that the Mississippi State routine will remain the same.
"The late kickoff doesn't really bother me. I am just ready to get my feet wet," Thomas said. "I am usually up late anyway. Seeing those other games is going to help me get my mind right. I am going to be locked in before we even get down to Hattiesburg. I am just ready to go."
With his playing career set to begin this Saturday, Thomas looks back on his decision to attend Mississippi State. The talented big man reports that he has no regrets about how things turned out.
"I know I made the right decision to come here," Thomas said. "I am happy to be a Mississippi State Bulldog. I am just ready to get out there on the field and show people what I can do. I am just ready."