“In my opinion they were the first school that gave me a chance by offering me first,” Thomas told BlackAndGoldIllustrated.com. “I think there were other schools that were looking at me but this was the first one that actually offered me. That means a lot to me.”
Missouri’s scholarship offer to the Tulsa (OK) Memorial High School standout set in motion some events that Thomas didn’t see coming.
After the Tigers offered, he received offers from Tennessee, Iowa State and Vanderbilt. Before long he had several more, from in-state schools like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and then others like Nebraska, Texas A&M, Baylor and Arizona.
“It came pretty quick,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t expecting this at all really until my senior year, actually. I got that message from Missouri and I called them and they offered me a scholarship. Then next thing I know my phone starts blowing up with other schools wanting me. It came pretty quick. It was mind-blowing, actually. I was pretty ecstatic about it.”
The offer from Missouri stood out for the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Thomas. He had made previous plans to visit the campus but wasn’t able to until this weekend after finalizing plans with Tigers defensive line coach Jackie Shipp.
“I was trying to make plans to visit earlier since it was my first visit and it meant a lot to me but something always came up or I wasn’t able to go,” he said. “I asked Coach Shipp if I could come this weekend and he said it was a great time. So I went up there. It was definitely the first out-of-state visit I wanted to make.”
What did Thomas like most about the campus?
“I liked how everything is so close,” he said. “Like it’s a smaller campus and everything is close together, so you don’t have to do much traveling on the campus to get where you need to go.”
The Oklahoma defensive end got to spend some quality time with Shipp, a former Sooners standout and coach.
It’s clear Thomas and Shipp have developed a good relationship.
“He was a real up front and honest guy,” Thomas said. “He wants the best for all his defensive players. He always tells me the first thing he stresses on his players is academics. He says that’s the first thing you want to be focused on when you get to college, because that’s why you go to college first of all. You’re not promised the NFL, so you need something to fall back on and that’s a degree. And after that, everything will fall into place perfectly. He’s a real up-front guy.”
They’ve also discussed their Sooner State connections.
“We’ve talked about it sometimes,” Thomas said. “He knows some people that I know. We always talk about it. Sometimes just talk about things in Oklahoma and what we like about it and places that we know about and stuff.”
During his trip to Columbia, Thomas learned quite a bit about Mizzou’s impressive list of defensive line products who have gone on to play in the NFL — a group that includes Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Sheldon Richardson, Ziggy Hood, Kony Ealy, Shane Ray and Markus Golden.
“My Uncle Bobby always tells me they have a good defensive line group like almost every year that comes out for the NFL Draft,” Thomas said. “They showed me a video about it. Man, it’s crazy. They were telling me they had the best defensive line group in the 2000s and they showed me and they proved it because they had Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and a bunch of other players.”
Thomas could add to that impressive run of defensive line talent, but he is taking his time with the process, doing his homework and hoping to visit more schools.
The talented defensive end prospect is in “wait-and-see” mode now.
“I’m not sure what college I want to visit next but I’m going to plan one pretty soon,” he said. “Just keep my options open and see what other schools have to offer for me.”