VT Aims For PT at UT

When reached on his cell phone Friday afternoon, Victor Thomas of Olive Branch, Miss., had just secured second place in the shot put at a conference track meet, with a throw of 45-9. Fortunately, his preparations to play football at the next level appear to be on the right track too.

Thomas, another unheralded prospect in Tennessee's unsung Class of 2006 signees, is more steady than flashy and better in person than he is on paper. However, his talent is genuine and it's augmented by a work ethic that is exceptional. Through diligent weight room training Thomas has added 10 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-4 frame, raising his play load to a solid 260 pounds. He's already big enough to compete in SEC football but will need to improve his 300-pound bench press to hold up his end against the run.

Victor Thomas was certainly well put together as a high school senior and perhaps most impressive physical specimen. He follows in the legacy of Magnolia State D-linemen that cast their lot with Tennessee. That list includes Billy Ratliff, Will Overstreet, Parys Haralson and Xavier Mitchell over the last decade.

The player known as "VT" garnered Class-5A All-State honors after posting 48 tackles with 6.5 sacks as a weakside defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. Olive Branch went 12-2 and reach the semifinal in the state playoffs. He had 40 tackles as a junior and helped Olive Branch to a 10-1 mark, earning first team All-Region recognition. He also started at offensive tackle and was also picked Best of Preps by the Commercial Memphis Appeal.

Listed with a time of 4.92 seconds in the 40, Thomas' greatest asset as a pass rusher is his quickness and an explosive first step that enables him to get the jump on down linemen and turn the corner with abandon. However, he'll need to develop his technique and diversify his game as he steps up in competition.

"I think I'm quick," he said. "I'm a speed rusher. I don't have a lot of moves, I just rely on my quickness. I want to get faster and stronger going into Tennessee. And I want to win a national championship."

When last the Volunteers won the national crown, Thomas was a resident of the Volunteer State.

"I'm originally from Memphis," he explained. "I went to Longview Middle School, but we moved to Mississippi before I started high school. I used to follow Tennessee when I was living there."

Ultimately, that early exposure to UT's program may have been a significant factor in his decision. It certainly didn't hurt, considering Thomas chose Tennessee over home state favorites Ole Miss and Mississippi State. He also had offers from Arkansas and Louisville among others.

"I chose Tennessee because they have a great academic program and they give a lot of support," Thomas said when asked what tipped the scales for the Vols? "The academic support separated them. I also felt like they would be more successful. They have a great football team and they have the potential to win the championship."

An ample amount of credit also has to be handed to UT assistant Steve Caldwell, who has enjoyed consistent success as a recruiter as well as a defensive ends coach. Thomas is the fourth defensive end Caldwell has signed out of Mississippi.

"I have a very good relationship with Coach Caldwell," Thomas revealed. "He said he was happy I was going to be part of the family. He couldn't wait to get me at Tennessee and coach me. We communicate a lot."

A solid student with a 3.0 GPA, Thomas plans to major in "exercise science" at UT and will enroll for the second summer semester.

"I'm going to the spring game next week," he volunteered. "I wanted to wear No. 90, but Turk McBride wears that number. I don't know what number I'm going to get."

Thomas doesn't get too hung on the numbers. He's rated a three-star prospect and No. 58 at his position nationally by Scout.com (No. 34 by Tom Lemming.) Yet he has the confidence of a five-star prospect high school all-American.

"I see myself being at least second string if not starting this year," he said. "I want to help the team win a championship as soon as I can and that's the way to do it."

To the Victor belongs the spoils.

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