WAKE FOREST, N.C. --- North Carolina became the latest school to offer Drake Thomas, a 6-foot, 225-pound linebacker from Heritage High, earlier this month. The 2019 prospect already holds three Power 5 offers.
"I think he's truly exceptional," Heritage head coach Dewayne Washington. "He's a downhill linebacker; he doesn't have a problem at all taking on guards or tackles. He shocks and sheds very well.
"And then he'll strike you. He does a great job, whether it's the quarterback, running back, fullback -- it doesn't really matter who it is in the backfield."
Washington isn't exactly sure how long Thomas spent on junior varsity -- it was less than a week, but may have been just a couple of days. Regardless, early in the 2015 preseason Thomas, barely a freshman, was promoted to varsity.
"We saw quickly that the kid had the acumen, he had the size, and the speed," Washington said. "So we thought he should play varsity. Obviously, we were right, because he really came out with a splash right in his first year."
Thomas immediately became a starting inside linebacker. A fractured growth plate in his ankle, which he suffered five games into the season, was the only thing that slowed him down that season. He dressed for all 12 contests, but was only fully healthy for eight.
If he made a splash as a freshman, Thomas made a tidal wave as a sophomore. Fully healthy, he led the team in tackles with 113, including 77 solos. He also carried the ball on offense for 336 yards.
During his second visit to North Carolina -- both occurring on Saturdays within a recent three-week period -- the Tar Heels staff issued Thomas a scholarship offer.
"There's a new linebackers coach now," Thomas said. "I talked to the old linebackers coach a little bit, but not much in-depth -- he hadn't really seen much on me. But, the new linebackers coach, he just seemed like he liked me a lot. So, that's why they offered me [during the second visit]."
Seven schools in total have offered Thomas. His offer list consists of Appalachian State, Charlotte, East Carolina, Marshall, Michigan, NC State, and of course UNC. Surprising, the Wolverines were the first to offer.
Over the weekend, Thomas took his first visit to Ann Arbor.
"The past two days in Michigan went great," Thomas said.
In addition to Michigan and UNC, Thomas has visited Charlotte, East Carolina, NC State, and Virginia.
"They're all nice places," Thomas said. "I'm not really narrowing down anything right now. All have been impressive to me. I'm not going to rush anything. I'm just going to take my time."
Thomas is working on scheduling a trip to South Carolina in the near future. He also figures to be back at UNC sometime very soon.
Thomas's first trip to UNC was its March 25 junior day. Having already done a lot touring and presentations during that visit, much of his second visit was consumed by watching that day's practice.
"I liked [practice] a lot," Thomas said. "Everything was up-pace, up-tempo, and a lot of energy."
Following practice, Thomas met with UNC's coaches, including linebacker coach Mike Ekeler and Larry Fedora. Once in Fedora's office, Thomas was offered a scholarship.
Outside of football, Thomas plays outfield for Heritage's baseball team. As of last week, he was batting close to .400... Thomas was born in Ohio (he moved to NC when he was three years old), but his entire family is from West Virginia. Thus, he grew up rooting for Marshall and WVU... Thomas's father played football at Marshall... Thomas is looking to major in business in college.