Houston (Tex.) Nimitz High School started a new quarterback in 2006, and Michael Thomas took the competition by storm and surprise. This quick and athletic signal caller helped the Cougars start the season 4-0 and average more than 32 yards per game. The crowning achievement came in Week 3, when Thomas ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns in a stunning 44-28 upset of highly regarded Port Arthur (Tex.) Memorial.
"No one knew about me, who I was or the type of stuff I could do to them," Thomas explains of his superlative early-season success. "On third downs, even though there might be receivers running their routes, I would take off running down the field, and they couldn't react quick enough. I would take advantage of the situation and run all over them."
"I guess as the season went on, people adapted to it," he continues. "They figured out that we were more of a running team with me at quarterback, so they would stop playing the pass as much. They started just sitting in on the running, which toned things down a little bit. I only got over 1,100 yards instead of staying on pace for what I was early in the season."
His stats and the Cougars' results tapered late in the season, but 2006 was still a banner campaign for Thomas. The 5'11" 175-pound athlete rushed for 1,172 yards and 10 touchdowns, passed for 235 yards and three touchdowns and caught another 175 yards and two touchdowns.
"We're not a total option team, but we run a lot option," Thomas tells of the Nimitz offense. "That's probably why they let me play quarterback so much. Most of the time when we pass, we run a lot of bootlegs. They always tell me I have a run/pass option, so if I see grass before I see a receiver get open, always run it. Don't even think about the pass - just run."
"I play quarterback at my school, but they also use me a receiver, running back and also as a defensive back," he adds. "A lot of college recruiting has been at DB, but some also want me to play receiver or tailback. Also my footwork - I do a lot of maneuvering and juking on the field."
"Arizona said they want me at running back. Baylor said running back and also slot receiver. Those schools are recruiting exclusively offense," he notes. "I just want to play. Whatever position they want me to play, I'll play it. I'm just trying to see what is the best system for me because I'll play any position."
Stanford and many of Thomas' suitors have him pegged as a cornerback, where his change-of-direction, footwork and speed can help in coverage. Though his high school film shows him almost exclusively on offense, Thomas is gathering more attention and excitement from college coaches with his performance this past weekend at the Greater Houston Football Coaches Association Combine.
"It wasn't my best combine," he says. "Coach told me I didn't need cleats, and he was wrong about that. I only ran a 4.48."
"It's been a great experience," Thomas comments on his college recruitment. "I'm just trying to enjoy it while I can. I remember waiting for my first offer and for the first team to be really interested in me. Now a whole bunch of them are getting interested in me, including Stanford. It's overwhelming, but I'm just trying to take it in the best I can and enjoy it. I know it's going to fly by next year."
With eight offers already in his coffer, Thomas could be armed for an early college decision. He however has plans on availing himself of his official visits and all the time he can take.
"My plan is that I'm going to stay open-minded right now. I'm taking everybody who comes," Thomas offers. "Me and my dad are going to evaluate and probably take some trips over the summer to see a few schools on our own. Just do as much research as possible right now to get to know the schools. See if I fit their environment; see if I fit their program. Just evaluate them to the fullest. I plan on probably deciding on the actual Signing Day, and until then I'll keep evaluating and take all of my official visits."
The Cardinal have made a dent early in Thomas' recruitment, with Andy Buh as the lead recruiter and head coach Jim Harbaugh also striking up a relationship. The latter landed with a splash last Friday at Nimitz High School, much to Thomas' delight.
"It was great meeting Coach Harbaugh. It was a big surprise," the recruit relates. "I'm almost at a loss for words for it. It shows that he is that much interested and really wants me. For him to make that effort and come all the way from California to see me, it lets me know that he's serious about it. I'm going to take this seriously, and I'm going to evaluate Stanford to the fullest. I was already in love with them because of Stanford the school, giving me the chance to go to a great school like that and them playing in the Pac-10. But for him to come and see me personally, that says something great when the head coach actually comes to meet you. I know that they are talking seriously with me."
"I'd say they are in my top three," Thomas tells us. "I'm open-minded but say 'top three' because a lot of coaches have been asking me about my top three... In no particular order, it's Stanford, Northwestern and I would say probably Missouri."
"Stanford and Northwestern are ahead of everybody right now because of how they have approached me," the cornerback recruit continues. "Coach Harbaugh and the Northwestern head coach came out to meet me in person. They both offer great academics and play great football, Stanford being in the Pac-10 and Northwestern being in the Big 10. Those two are ahead of everybody, but out of Northwestern and Stanford, I would say Stanford just because it's in California. I have some relatives who live in California, and I've been out there before. It's pretty nice. That plays into it a little bit. I would say Stanford is leading a little bit right now."
It comes as little surprise that two academically esteemed schools top Thomas' early list, with his 3.65 GPA at Nimitz High School and a course load that includes honors precalculus, English and physics. The high school junior has scored a 1410 on the SAT (510M, 440R, 460W), with a scheduled June retake to boost his component scores.
If he holds to his recruiting timeline, Michael Thomas still has nearly nine months left before his college decision. That leaves a lot of road to still be traveled with his story, starting with his summer unofficial visits. Stay tuned as we cover his unfolding saga in the months ahead.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!