Michael Thomas from Houston (Tex.) Nimitz High School announced last night that he will attend Stanford University. After announcing his decision at the studio of a local Houston television station, the 3-star athlete called The Bootleg to delve deeper into his decision-making process and thoughts on the Cardinal.
"It really came down Tuesday," Thomas says of his decision. "My family and I just sat down for an hour-and-a-half, maybe two hours, and we talked about the final three colleges that I narrowed it down to, which were Iowa State, Northwestern, and of course, Stanford. We were going over all the pluses of each school and all the things that I might dislike about each school."
"Northwestern and Stanford were neck and neck," the recruit continues, "and [my parents] were like, 'Every time you talk about Stanford you just light up a little more. That's pretty much where you really want to go in your heart.' That's the decision we made and that's the right one."
While Thomas favored Stanford for months and had long proclaimed Stanford and Northwestern as the schools that stood out in his recruitment, a trip to Palo Alto this past weekend for the rivalry game against Cal helped intensify his attraction to the school. Ultimately, that visit added to the list of factors that sold Thomas on The Farm as his destination for college.
"I just came from my official visit during the Big Game and I realized how big that was and how seriously the staff, the student body, the football players, took the tradition," Thomas recounts. "It set a spark in my eye because I was like, 'OK, so they do have tradition with football still!' And Coach Harbaugh – he had those guys fired up! That's something I wanted to be a part of. And I noticed the student body. They actually have fun with college life. A lot of people think of Stanford as a school that's hard to get in and that all they do is work, work, work but these guys actually have fun. I know that if they're having fun, I'll have fun and that's something that I want to be a part of also."
In addition to convincing Thomas about the football and social aspects of life at Stanford, the visit served to make him feel at home with a team that, while nearly 2,000 miles away from home, does not lack for players from Thomas' neck of the woods. For the visit, Thomas was hosted by starting safety Austin Yancy, a fellow Houston area product who attended Clear Creek High School. Thomas is also keenly aware that he is not the only star senior from Houston planning on signing with Stanford in February.
"Me and Andrew Luck," Thomas cites in referring to Stanford's 4-star quarterback commit as a helpful resource in his recruitment. "He didn't play a huge role in my decision, but just asking him questions about what his deciding factors were and how he felt about it and him texting me back on how he felt. That just reassured the fact that I'm making the right decision. Playing with Houston guys really makes me feel good because I can relate to people out there and I won't be all alone."
Interestingly, Thomas and Luck are not new acquaintances. To the contrary, the two have been linked for years as the star quarterbacks of rival Houston football teams, squaring off head-to-head for each of the past three years.
"We had the tiebreaker this year," Thomas relates of the rivalry. "I won my sophomore year. In a dramatic finish, they beat us our junior year. Then this year, it came down to our last drive where we couldn't tie it up, so we lost 42-35, but it was a good hard-fought battle. He played outstanding. I made some plays for my team, but they just came out on top at the end."
While Thomas played quarterback for Nimitz in that game and throughout his senior season, his primary contributions were on the ground and in leading the offense. In the game against Luck's Stratford team, Thomas had a 33-yard touchdown run. Over the course of his last two high school seasons, he amassed over 1,500 yards rushing as a quarterback. Despite playing quarterback in high school, however, Thomas' college future will be elsewhere on the field.
"They're recruiting me as a cornerback but they still have me listed as an athlete, so I guess they'll figure out what they want me to play when I get there," Thomas explains of Stanford's plans for him. "But cornerback and return specialist - it doesn't matter what position I play as long as I'm on the field. It doesn't matter."
Once Thomas gets to campus, then, he will have to learn the intricacies of a new position. For his part, the transition does not concern Thomas. In fact, he looks forward to hitting the ground running at his new position.
"I'm excited," Thomas says. "I've only played cornerback or defense period for spot situations, so it's good to play the other side, on the more serious side. Playing quarterback gave me a lot of opportunities to learn the game and learn what cornerbacks and safeties might have tendencies to do. Transitioning to that side, I don't think, will be that hard for me just because I know the game. I mean, I'm excited. That's all there is to it."
Once he does get on the field as a cornerback, return specialist, or something else entirely, Thomas will bring a skill set that already has Stanford coaches and fans considering the possibilities. Given the graduation losses of two cornerbacks who combined for 36 starts in their Stanford careers, some even view Thomas as an immediate possibility to get playing time in the defensive backfield despite his lack of experience at the position. In particular, his footwork and athleticism tend to impress observers.
"Very quick and explosive," the 5'11" 180-pounder says of his athletic gifts. "I try to get to the ball as fast as I can. If I have the ball, I try to get from A to B as fast as I can. Just quick and explosive."
Over the course of his recruitment, Thomas' confidence in his athletic abilities has been validated by a host of college programs eager to win his services. Recruited hard by Stanford Linebackers Coach Andy Buh and a number of the other coaches on staff for Stanford, Thomas received strong interest from all over the country. In addition to Stanford, Northwestern, and Iowa State, he ultimately decided among offers from Missouri, Vanderbilt, Boise State, and Rice. However, that list of favorites reflects only the narrowed-down group Thomas focused on as his recruitment progressed into the fall. As a result, many observers of Thomas' recruitment may have lost sight of the array of other major offers he boasted, including Cal, Penn State, Nebraska, Arizona State, Arizona, Colorado, Baylor, Navy, Air Force, Army, and Houston.
Despite the wealth of offers, Thomas focused his recruitment on a smaller group of schools and particularly on the Cardinal and Wildcats, though he notes that "Vanderbilt actually came on strong at the end" as well. For a recruit with so many options, the focus on schools such as Stanford, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt reflects a clear prioritization of the academic attributes of his suitors. The son of two attorneys, Thomas reports a 3.45 GPA and a 1450 SAT. In the classroom, his course load includes Calculus, Honors English, Government, Economics, Spanish 3 Honors, and a couple of computer classes.
Given Stanford's rigorous application process, however, Thomas had to work diligently on his application and nervously await word on whether he would be able to attend Stanford. Ultimately, he received the good news he had been waiting for and committed two weeks later.
"I was admitted the week of Thanksgiving," Thomas shares. "Just a couple days before Thanksgiving, I was admitted to the school. It was a weight lifted. I was... I'm at a loss for words right now. That's something I was waiting on for like six months. I worked hard at it. For them to tell me that I was admitted, it lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders. It was overwhelming, but I knew I could do it. I'm at a loss for words, I don't know how I can describe that feeling."
Palpably excited about the opportunity to attend Stanford University and play football for the Cardinal, Michael Thomas exudes an optimism and enthusiasm that mirrors the attitude that Jim Harbaugh and his staff have begun to cultivate on The Farm. While he remains months away from stepping on to campus and suiting up for the football team, the new commit has a message for Stanford fans.
"Look for Michael Thomas, #3, to make an impact on the team."
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