For Thomas, it wasnt so much that happiness was Lubbock, Texas in his rearview mirror. It was more of a case of like-father, like-son. He grew up a Longhorn primarily because his father, a Lubbock-native, became enthralled with Darrell Royals national championship seasons in 1963 and 1969-70.
It meant that, as a youngster, Thomas was decked out in all the Burnt Orange apparel and Longhorn posters on his bedroom walls. Whats more, one of Thomas favorite memories growing up was when former Longhorn Tony Brackens leveled the Tech kicker at the start of the second half of the 1995 game, a 48-7 Longhorn shellacking of the last nationally-ranked Tech team to visit Austin.
"I went to a ton of games at Jones Stadium and I saw a lot of crazy things there," Thomas said, "but I was always a Texas fan."
Thomas has never thrown a tortilla at Jones Stadium, as Red Raider fans are prone to do, but has been hit by several. Part of that may have to do with the fact that he wore his Burnt Orange gear to TTU games, regardless of the opponent.
So, how was the teenaged Thomas treated by the Texas Tech partisans?
"Not good," he laughed. "They dont like anybody wearing Burnt Orange."
They especially dont like the idea of his wearing Burnt Orange on game day. And they let him know it when he made his first visit to Jones Stadium in a Longhorn uniform.
"I hadnt played a lot my freshman year and I really hadnt done anything," Thomas said. "As soon as I walked out of the tunnel, they knew exactly who I was. They were all over me. It was even worse when they beat us."
Indeed, the tortillas were flying during Techs 42-38 upset win over No. 4 Texas in 2002 that knocked the Horns out of BCS bowl contention.
"I was trying to get off the field, and everyone was in my face telling me what a big mistake I had made," Thomas recalled. "I just kept my helmet on and kept walking."
Leach offered Thomas a full ride immediately after National Signing Day in February, 2001 while Texas coach Mack Brown extended the invitation four months later.
"Growing up a Texas fan, I was holding out for Coach Brown," Thomas said, "but (Tech) was my first offer so Ill never forget that. Ive got a lot of respect for their program."
Brown is renowned for securing his recruits months ahead of most other suitors.
"Tech was my first offer and UT was my last offer," Thomas said, "but I knew (Brown) wanted to meet my parents. Hes real personable and likes to meet everybody. He wants to do it in person. Thats part of the reason it took a long time, but I was always in contact with (UT coaches). I wasnt too worried about it."
This day, Thomas is coming off of his two best receiving performances of the 2005 season. He tends to excel against zone coverage, UT coaches have noted, and exploited Colorados secondary to the tune of 64 yards on five grabs last Saturday.
"He does a great job of finding the cracks and getting open," Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis said Tuesday. "Sometimes the coverage in the game dictates where the ball is going to go, but thats the second time this year hes caught five balls in a game."
In fact, its the second time in as many outings that Thomas has totaled five catches. After totaling six catches against Missouri, Ohio State and UL-Lafayette, Thomas tallied five receptions for 50 yards against Oklahoma.
Wed like to keep it around that number," Davis added.
Thomas is not likely to manufacture bulletin board material for the Red Raider dressing room, even though Texas holds a 25-5 series lead in Austin.
"They never were (ranked) when I was growing up," he said, "so this is something a little different. Theyre a good team and theyve won every game that they were supposed to win. They deserve to be up there and it will be a good game."
Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. on an ABC national broadcast.