Travis Thomas has been patiently waiting his turn for his chance to carry the football for Notre Dame. That chance will come on Saturday, and Thomas admits he's a little nervous.
"I have trouble sleeping at night thinking about my first college game and going through the plays and my assignments in my head," Thomas said when asked if he's thought about his first carries as an Irish player.
"First game is going to be different, things are going to be flying around," he said. "Once you get that first hit in, then things will settle down, hopefully the speed of the game will slow down and you play how you know to play."
Thomas won't be the starting tailback for the Irish, but he should see a number of snaps once the game gets under way.
"As of right now Ryan (Grant) is the starter," the sophomore sensation said. "But, depending on how he feels and how things go, the rotation will vary upon that. As of right he is definitely going to start, but we will rotate."
Grant has been battling a hamstring injury most of fall camp, and Thomas has stepped up his game in his absence according to offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick.
"He's stayed healthy," Diedrick said of Thomas. "He's shown that he's got the ability to run downhill inside (and) also to run outside. He's got good hands and is probably a better than average pass receiver.
"I think he's becoming a much better blocking back. He's kind of taken that next step as a young back to being maybe a total back."
With Grant injured, Thomas saw an opportunity to earn carries this season. He said he knew he had to take advantage of the opportunity.
I knew there would be an opportunity for me to get playing time somewhere, so I just tried to capitalize on it," Thomas said.
"My biggest hurdle was staying mentally focused and on top of my game while the number of reps increased so I had to stay focused for long periods.
"It is more mental than physical. If you know what you are doing mentally and you can go out and physically do it, it's cake. But if you don't have it up here (pointing to his head) then you can't actually do it physically."
The Washington, Pa. native can sympathize with Grant as he had to battle nagging injuries all through spring camp, and he missed his first real chance to perform at the spring game due to a nagging injury. Thomas said he felt like he had something to prove this fall.
Like I have said before, during spring ball I learned from Ryan and his work ethic, watched a lot of film," Thomas said. "I missed out playing in the spring game and so I was a little stale. I felt I had a lot to prove."
The former Superprep All-American said he prepared to make his move up the depth chart this fall by watching a lot of film during the off-season.
"That's all I do is watch film," Thomas said. "The more you watch, the more you are going to understand what you need to do, what reads to make and you can just react and play instead of thinking."
Thomas has also made a lasting impression on his teammates. The 6-0, 215-pound sophomore was given the nickname "Workhorse" by his peers, and he's proud of the name.
"I feel that is how I play. I work hard at everything I do," the business major said. "They gave me that name last year on the scout team and I went the whole year without getting hurt. I took the load on my back and I try to keep that mentality.
"It is an honor to have that name and it something I try to uphold."
Diedrick also thinks the name is fitting as Thomas possesses that workman like attitude that any coach loves to see in his players.
"I would think that is a very fitting description," Diedrick said of Thomas' nickname. "He's got great mental discipline. He's a hard worker. Even when you get to that point to where it's exhaustion point, he works well through that."
But, with Julius Jones now tearing up the field in Dallas, Irish fans want to know if Travis Thomas can hit the home run like Jones did for the Irish last season?
"If given that opportunity, I think that he probably can," Diedrick said when asked the question. "I'd like to see him have a number of opportunities," he said with a big laugh.
Thomas believes he has a chance to hit the home run on Saturday. With BYU's aggressive style of defense, he feels there's an opportunity for a big play if everything falls into place.
"There's definitely some opportunities," Thomas said. "They're a very aggressive defense, especially the safeties, they come up field. So if you can hit that gap, and take that guy one-on-one and make him miss, it's housework."
Thomas never doubted his ability, even while the Irish flirted with USC sophomore Reggie Bush before offering Thomas a scholarship. Thomas says he's looking at Saturday as validation that he knew he could perform at a very high level at Notre Dame.
"I have the confidence," Thomas said. "I believe in myself and I feel the team believes in me. All that is left is for me to go out there and do it."