Coach Montecalvo is a veteran with 23 years at Washington high school. Travis was part of a 15-0 State Championship team his junior year and Coach Montecalvo couldn't say enough good things about his star player. "I have been here 23 years and he's certainly one of the top kids we have had, not just as a player but I think even more so as a person and as a guy who exudes strong character, morals and tremendous work ethic. He is a real all around team-oriented type of guy who doesn't worry about individual statistics and is able to take personal accountability for his play. He will be honest with himself and take introspective looks into his performance and use that to help him grow as a player. I know that is a lot of things I have just said but you don't find that too much today in young people and that is why he is a special guy. He approaches the classroom with as much passion as he does playing football and I think that is what makes him such a special guy."
Thomas has to have those characteristics to play in Coach Montecalvo's offense. "Our offense is one built on great balance. Not only within our running game, we have a three back offense but with the balance between the run and the pass. We don't usually have a guy who has gaudy statistics. We try to preach teamwork and to stay humble and realize that if they do that it will endear people to them because of the enormous publicity that our athletes get. We have had a good deal of success in our program and Travis is the epitome of that. He is the kind of kid that would do literally anything we would ask. If he had to play tight end or wide receiver or defensive tackle for a particular week, he would gladly do it no matter what the cost might be to his individual statistics if it would help the team."
Thomas is obviously a quality kid but he also has talent on the football field. Thomas rushed for almost 1800 yards and over 20 touchdowns this year. I asked Coach Montecalvo what he thought about Travis playing in the Army all-star game and as a football player. "Well, you didn't get to really see Travis in that game. We were kind of disappointed because being in the shotgun offense the entire game didn't play well to his strengths. It was unfortunate for him. He has got very good speed and quickness but he is a real power runner. He is a very durable back. Very seldom was he hurt. He is guy who is going to hold onto the football. He is going to make people miss but even more so, he is going to run through a lot of tackles. He is a guy who can run very well through the tackles as well as run outside the tackles. He is thoroughly devoted to the weight-training program. We have never had a guy who has worked harder in the weight program. He could certainly play strong safety or an outside linebacker position but I think his greatest assets are as a running back. He is a very, very sure tackler and a tenacious hitter on defense but I think his best position is running back."
Thomas is also a hard worker when it comes to speed training. "We work extremely hard on speed training. I am the track coach as well as the football coach. We have a summer speed-training program and I know he will continue to work hard at that. He actually has increased his speed quite a bit from when he was a freshman running around 4.8 to this spring when consistently ran 4.4 flat over and over again. I think with even more work, the stronger he gets in his lower body and he continues to work on his speed training, he should improve his speed even more. I know that when he gets to college, when he can focus on just one sport, he is going to get bigger and stronger. You are not going to get a kid that will come to a college campus that will have better work habits than he has."
Thomas is also a leader on the field. His practice habits set the tone for the Washington football team this year. "He is more of a leader by example. He is not a guy with a whole lot of words; he's more humble and quiet. He leads by his example that he demonstrates every day on the field. He never misses a practice. When he hits the practice field, he does everything 100%. You never have to say to him ‘hey, let's pick up the pace.' When you have your top players doing that, it sets the tone for everyone else that this is the type of tempo we expect every day out here. It's very difficult when you don't get that from your stars."
Thomas is not only interested in football and school; he has other interests as well. Coach Montecalvo gave me a little insight into one of his secret passions. "I sometimes call Travis the renaissance man. He is real adept and real interested in the arts. He's made a couple of trips with our art club. He went to Chicago and to Boston and these are 4 to 5 day trips. I don't think you will find too many high school football stars that have an interest in that area. That's kind of close to my heart because when I was an athlete, I also played the piano. I played college football at Penn State and a lot of my friends would kind of tease me at times about playing piano but I never let that bother me because I enjoyed doing it. He does have a real interest and real aptitude in art. I just think that's kind of neat and unique and shows that he is a well-rounded person."
Speaking with Travis Thomas this year has been a real pleasure. He is a quiet guy but he does have a lot of personality. You can tell his Mom has done a wonderful job in raising him. You can tell that Coach Montecalvo has a tremendous amount of respect for Travis as both a person and a football player. He is very excited about Notre Dame and I think we can expect to see some of that art aptitude on the football field.