Thomas Clayton is the complete package. He's big, strong (315 bench) and very fast. Recently, Thomas was ranked 8th in the nation in the 55 meters (6.54 seconds). In May, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds (electronically timed) at a Northern Virginia Nike Combine, which was the fastest time at the combine.
"I expected to do better because my track coach, David Jackson, said he could get me down to a 4.0 flat by the time I'm a senior," said Thomas. "I actually slipped coming out when I ran the 4.3. I only ran it once because there were about 300 guys and after you run it once, you fall back to the end of the line. I was kind of upset because I slipped and I know I could have done better."
Clayton is a young man who likes to be precise. He gives his height and weight at 5'11 ½", 199 pounds. The running back from Mount Vernon High in Alexandria, Virginia executes with precision on the football field as well. Last season, he ran for 1,848 yards and 19 touchdowns, leading his team to a record of 8-3.
Mount Vernon lost their first game of the year this past Friday night against a team that went to the state finals last year. Thomas described his performance as fair.
"They put 9 in the box,", he said. "I got about 150 yards, but I usually average about 200 yards. I'm strong, so I would've liked to run the ball up the middle a little more. In preseason, I was getting about 300 yards a game. I've gotten a lot stronger since last year."
His performance on the field has drawn a great deal of attention from colleges across the country.
He has offers from Notre Dame, Penn State, North Carolina, Northwestern, Nebraska, Pitt, Syracuse, Clemson, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, UCLA, Marshall, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Oregon State, South Carolina, Navy, Rutgers and Temple. That's 26.
"Notre Dame and Penn State are recruiting me the hardest," Thomas said. "Nebraska, Notre Dame and Penn State are probably my top 3. They're all about even at this point. I like Florida State and UCLA too."
Thomas has started the process of visiting his favorites.
"Unofficially, I visited Penn State and I liked that and we set up a visit to Notre Dame," he said.
The visit to Penn State was on July 28, for a junior day. He will be taking an official visit to Notre Dame on the 22nd of this month. Thomas will visit his 5 favorites officially with the possibility of replacing Florida State with North Carolina.
Thomas' father, mother and uncle accompanied him on his trip to Penn State in July.
"I liked it a whole lot," he said. "I actually got a personal tour. Most of the guys were on busses but I actually rode around with the offensive coordinator, which was pretty cool. I'm big on track, and he showed me the new indoor track facility they have which definitely drew my eye big time."
He also got a chance to meet Coach Paterno.
"We actually sat in a conference room and spoke for about a half hour," Thomas said. "That was cool. It was like talking to a legend but at the same time, a regular person because that's how he likes it. If you speak to him you'll think he's like 20 or something. He's very youthful. He's definitely a young 74. We talked about everything, about life. I'm interested."
Thomas is contemplating majoring in communications.
He knows what he's looking for in a college.
"Playing time in my true freshman year will probably be the main factor, about 75%, and a great education will follow, big time." Thomas said. "And just a good atmosphere where I can live for a couple of years and feel comfortable. I'm looking for an atmosphere that just fits. When I went up to Penn State, I liked it. I liked what I saw."
Thomas is very knowledgable about each school's depth at the running back position.
"Penn State said that with what they saw on tape, I would get playing time without a doubt," he said. "That's the same thing that Notre Dame is sayi