Thomas Clayton says, time for a change

Say a young man wants to transfer from NE Oklahoma A&M to a Division 1-A school. No big deal, right? In fact, they've succeeded and made it happen for themselves. And, even from a lower tier school of the highest division to one considered in the upper echelon, well, that's just another step up. But, what if that young person is transferring from one of the biggest football traditions of the last twenty years. That's just what Thomas Clayton is doing as he prepares for life after Florida State.

Sometimes it's hard making decisions like this. I can't know in actuality, but in concept, this is a life-changing move for Thomas in that where he goes will be yet another chapter in his life, this one for would could be a full four years. It's not easy leaving a program like Florida State and some would wonder just what in the heck he's thinking. It's not what you think or what some have speculated as to the reason for this change. "It had apparently gotten out that I was leaving because of depth and that had nothing to do with it." Clayton stated. "The reason I am leaving here is because of position change."

That position change Thomas eludes to is to fullback where he said they were asking him to put on anywhere up to 30 more pounds on his almost 6 foot frame that was already at a stout by cut 213 lbs. "There was no way I was doing that." Thomas said. "Not only that, I was probably the fastest of all the running backs there and they wanted me to play fullback and I was like, you got to be kidding me."

There's little question about FSU's depth at running back. Year in and year out, FSU seems to be laden with one solid tailback after another. With that being the case though, you can see the point of a running back that was rated just as high if not higher coming out of high school that most of those he called teammates at Florida State. It's a common sense move, some would say, but Thomas said that considering how young he still is, it was simply the best move he could make. "While I am young and still have the opportunity, I felt like it would be in my best interest to go ahead and make the move."

And don't believe that Thomas all of a sudden fell out of love with the program that is Florida State. It was simply a matter of him and the coaches not seeing eye to eye. Something that is hardly rare in athletics, plus as most know, the life of a Florida athlete isn't so bad for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the weather. It wasn't completely about what Thomas wanted though and of course, ultimately didn't fit his design. "I love the social life down here, but there's more to school than just the social aspect." Thomas said.

Just to give you a little background on Thomas, as you might already know, he came out of high school ranked everywhere as one of the best backs in the country. He rushed for over 2,000 yards his senior year at Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Virginia, leading his team to the AAA Division 5 title. As a Nole, Thomas played behind touted backs, Greg Jones and Nick Maddox in a sparse role, playing in only four games as a true freshman.

With his freshman season burnt, that will give Thomas a year to sit, using his redshirt and three years to play. The "off-season" for him isn't really going to be an off-season at all, rather just another opportunity to do a little more. "I know I have to sit a year." Clayton stated. "But, as I see it, it's just more time that I can work on my game." This "game" as he calls it is enough that most of those schools interested in him way back when, are clamoring back for another try and some other schools have jumped in as well.

Per his dad, schools like Penn State and Marshall, schools they have already visited are certainly in consideration, but new schools like Nebraska, Northwestern and Vanderbilt have arisen as schools that they are taking a serious look at.

All this really does come down to going through the recruiting process all over again, but for Division 1-A schools, this is even better than getting someone out of high school and it's even better than getting them out of the junior college ranks. What you have here is a kid that is already in your division, has played at one of the "elite" in that division and is basically ready to play. Yeah, there's that year to wait, but what a "steal" for anyone that gets someone that is groomed and can get nothing but better.

As for the team that could get him, you know the principles, now is their a favorite? Thomas's dad has put a deadline of two weeks on this process. That means those schools that Thomas has already seen like the Nittany Lions and the Thundering Herd, well they are spectators for now. The ones that get visits will be Nebraska, Northwestern and Vandy.

Out of all these though, there seems to be a couple of teams that stand out and one in particular. "I think that Nebraska and Penn State fit me as a running back." Thomas said. "They offer a back more opportunities to do something with the ball. They have good lines, which means a running back has a real shot to make something happen."

As for that possible favorite? "Ever since I was a kid, my two favorite schools were Florida State and Nebraska." Clayton stated. "I just liked what they did with their backs and how they ran the ball. They were both big traditions and each gives someone like me a real chance to succeed."

Thomas didn't get that chance at Florida State because they tried to move him where he didn't want to be. As for the rest, they are interested and all those aforementioned schools have said that if Thomas wants a place there, they are more than willing to welcome him in.

All that Thomas will need to do in the next two weeks is figure out where he wants to go.

Transferring can be considered much like de-committing but in cases like this, it's vastly different. For instance, if you are a 6-5" receiver going to Marshall where they said you could try to be the next Randy Moss and after you get there, they try to move you to tight end, you either do that or you leave. You want to be a quarterback and they want you to be a split end and you won't have any of that, you leave.

Thomas is a running back. A super-stud, all-everything coming out of high school, running back and that's what he wants to be.

The only question now is where.

Steve Ryan can be reached at or 402-730-5619

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