JAMES "J.T." THOMAS, Jr.
West Virginia University Mountaineers
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Blanche Ely High School
Thomas always knew that he would suit up for the Mountaineers. After all, he is a legacy who used to mill around WVU practices in 1994-95 while his father, James Thomas, Sr. was a linebacker during the Don Nehlen era. Despite not being heavily recruited coming out of high school, the faith that the former head coach Rich Rodriguez placed in the James, Jr. has paid off handsomely for the new West Virginia coaching staff.
Thomas' father first realized that his son was really serious about football was during his senior season playing for the Mountaineers in 1995. His son would often come up from Florida to watch West Virginia University football games and stay the weekend at his daddy's apartment. "He used to own this (video) football game and we used to play and he always wanted to be better than I was," said J.T. Sr. "And I think he's going to be."
J.T.'s proud father isn't the only one around here with that opinion. "J.T. Thomas is a very instinctive, aggressive football player that is very athletic and very bright," said former WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. "He has caught on probably quicker here in our scheme than we've had anyone that come here in the four years or so that we've been running the defense."
Thomas committed early to West Virginia and stuck with the Mountaineers even when Florida's chief Sunshine State recruiter Doc Holliday began calling him. Holliday lured J.T.'s father to West Virginia when he was a member of Don Nehlen's coaching staff.
"Doc actually called me prior to talking to him just to make sure I wasn't going to steer him to West Virginia," his dad said. "I said to Doc, ‘I want him to make his own decision and be his own man.' He went to Florida and we really talked about what he wanted to do in his future and he weighed his options. He really did a great job and I credit my son for figuring out what he wants in life."
"West Virginia was the first school to offer me a scholarship and I committed early because they really wanted me," J.T. said. "Other schools were still trying to get after me and they wanted me almost as badly as West Virginia did, but West Virginia seemed like the school that wanted me most. I got offers from Florida, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt and they were all good programs but they couldn't compare to West Virginia in my mind."
LB J.T. Thomas
Charles LeClaire/US Presswire
Thomas really took a liking to the family atmosphere former head coach Rich Rodriguez developed at WVU. "I love the fact that Morgantown is a football town," he said. "Everybody in Morgantown loves football and I like that."
Prior to his arrival at West Virginia, Thomas helped Blanche Ely High School to the Florida semi-finals as a senior. He earned first-team All-Broward honors in 2005, serving as team captain for the 10-3 district champions. He was a member of the Rivals.com Florida Top 100 List and received a two-star prospect rating from Scout.com.
Thomas finished with 89 tackles (53 solos), five sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles that campaign, earning his team's Defensive Most Valuable Player Award and an invitation to the BCAA/Sun-Sentinel All-Star Game.
Upon his arrival at West Virginia, Thomas was granted a medical red-shirt for 2006 due to a lingering ankle sprain that kept him out of action in fall camp. Once he recovered, he went on to win the 2006 Danny Van Etten Award from WVU coaches as the scout team player of the year on defense.
Thomas's 2007 campaign started with the team's fourth game. He appeared in WVU's final ten contests as a reserve outside linebacker, posting 19 tackles (13 solos) with three stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Long hours in the off-season training program saw Thomas add over 20 pounds of bulk and muscle to his frame prior to the 2008 season opener, earning Iron Mountaineer Award honors in the process. He started all thirteen games at weak-side outside linebacker, finishing fourth on the team with 65 tackles (23 solos), leading the defense with ten stops for loss that included three sacks. He also blocked a punt and caused two fumbles.
Thomas received the Gridiron Gladiator Award from the Mountaineers coaching staff and the league's coaches selected him to the All-Big East Conference first-team unit in 2009. He started all thirteen contests at weak-side linebacker, ranking second on the squad with 76 tackles (34 solos), making seven stops behind the line of scrimmage. He intercepted two passes, broke up five others and recorded a fumble while again receiving Iron Mountaineer Award honors for his work in the off-season lifting program.
Thomas was again chosen All-Big East Conference first-team as a senior, extending his starting string to 39 games. He placed second on the squad with 77 tackles (33 solos), finishing tied for fourth with seven stops for loss. He caused and recovered a pair of fumbles, as three of his four pass break-ups came on third-down plays.
Thomas played in 49 games at West Virginia, starting his final 39 contests at weak-side outside linebacker…Closed out his career with 233 tackles (106 solos) that included six sacks for minus 37 yards, 27.0 stops for losses totaling 99 yards and six quarterback pressures…Caused five fumbles and recovered three others, returning one 12 yards…Deflected thirteen passes and intercepted two others for 29 yards in returns…Also gained 26 yards on a blocked punt return.
Thomas earned All-Big East Conference first-team honors for the second consecutive season and was also named to the WVU Athletic Director's Academic Honor Roll…Lined up at weak-side outside linebacker, closing his career with 39-straight starts at that position…Like 2009, he finished second on the team with 73 tackles (36 solos) that included 2.5 sacks for minus 12 yards, tying for fourth on the squad with seven stops for losses of 28 yards…Added three quarterback pressures, as he caused two fumbles and recovered two others, advancing one for a 12-yard gain vs. Rutgers…Also broke up four pass attempts…Helped the team lead the conference in total defense (261.08 ypg, third in the nation), rush defense (second nationally with 86.46 ypg) and scoring defense (placed third in the NCAA with 13.54 ppg)…The Mountaineers also ranked second in the major college ranks while leading the league with an average of 3.46 sacks per game.
LB J.T. Thomas
2010 GAME ANALYSIS
Thomas opened the season with three tackles, including one for a loss, as he also broke up two passes vs. Coastal Carolina, despite missing most of August camp with a neck sprain…Followed with eight tackles, assisting on a stop behind the line of scrimmage vs. Marshall…Added seven hits vs. Maryland and six tackles with a pass deflection vs. Louisiana State…Had four tackles with a pressure and a stop for a 6-yard loss in a 49-10 rout of Nevada-Las Vegas…Totaled two stops behind the line of scrimmage vs. South Florida and made five tackles that included a sack vs. Syracuse…Recorded seven hits vs. Connecticut, followed by six tackles, an assisted sack, a fumble recovery and a pass break-up vs. Cincinnati…Collected just four solo tackles, but caused a fumble on a 9-yard sack and had a pair of third-down pressures in a 35-10 victory over Pittsburgh…Came up with seven tackles, as he stripped the ball from a Rutgers ball carrier, recovering it for a 12-yard return in the regular season finale…Closed out his career with a ten-tackle effort vs. North Carolina State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
All-Big East Conference first-team choice…Selected an "Iron Mountaineer" for the second year by his teammates because of his hard work and dedication during the offseason lifting and conditioning program…Awarded the Gridiron Gladiator Award by the WVU coaching staff…Earned Player of the Game honors vs. Liberty and Syracuse…Saw action in 760 plays, starting all thirteen games at weak-side outside linebacker…Finished second on the team with a career-high 76 tackles (34 solos) that included an assisted sack and seven stops for losses of 16 yards…Had two QB pressures and forced a fumble…Broke up five passes and gained 29 yards on a pair of interception returns…Part of a squad that allowed 336.54 yards in total offense, 126.69 of those yards on the ground and gave up 21.69 points per game, ranking fourth in the conference in each category.
2009 GAME ANALYSIS
Thomas produced seven tackles, assisting on a sack while making 2.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage vs. Liberty…Produced six tackles, including one for a 2-yard loss vs. East Carolina and was in on nine tackles (5 solos) that included a stop for minus 3 yards, two pressures and a pass deflection vs. Auburn…Followed with a 10-yard interception return and six hits in a 35-24 defeat of Colorado…Made seven tackles vs. South Florida and matched that total vs. Louisville while also deflecting a pass…Credited with seven more tackles (4 solos) and a stop for a 2-yard loss vs. Cincinnati…Collected two stops behind the line of scrimmage vs. Pittsburgh and tallied seven tackles for the fifth time in 2009, as he also returned an interception 19 yards vs. Rutgers…Closed out the season with five tackles vs. Florida State in the Gator Bowl, the final game coached by the Seminoles' Bobby Bowden, whose previous coaching stint was at West Virginia.
Recipient of the Iron Mountaineer Award…Recipient of the coaches' Whitey Gwynne Award…Named Player of the Game vs. Auburn and Connecticut…Was on the field for 750 snaps, finishing fourth on the team with 65 tackles (23 solos) while starting all thirteen games at weak-side outside linebacker…Registered three sacks for minus 24 yards and led the Mountaineers with ten stops for losses of 46 yards while also posting a quarter-back pressure…Gained 26 yards on a blocked punt and deflected three passes…Caused two fumbles and recovered another…Part of a defense that allowed the opposition to average 131.62 yards rushing, 328.92 yards in total offense and 17.00 points per game.
2008 GAME ANALYSIS
Thomas made his starting debut by making a key special teams play, blocking a punt that he advanced 26 yards, as he also delivered six tackles with 1.5 sacks for minus 15 yards vs. Villanova…Added ten tackles with a stop for an 8-yard loss vs. East Carolina…Made five hits vs. Syracuse, followed by eight tackles and a stop behind the line of scrimmage vs. Auburn…Totaled a season-high eleven tackles with an assisted sack and 2.5 stops for losses of 8 yards vs. Cincinnati…Registered seven tackles (4 solos), two stops for minus 7 yards and a pressure vs. Pittsburgh…Posted seven more tackles and a 6-yard sack in a 13-7 decision over South Florida in the regular season finale…Made just one tackle, but it came behind the line of scrimmage, as Thomas also recovered a fumble in a 31-30 triumph over North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
LB J.T. Thomas
Thomas served as a reserve linebacker in the final ten contests, recording 19 tackles (13 solos) with three stops for losses of 9 yards and a pass deflection…Participated in a total of 125 plays.
2007 GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Made two tackles in his collegiate debut, vs. East Carolina…Added three hits with a stop for a 3-yard loss and a pass deflection vs. Louisville…Had three more hits the next week in a 28-23 win over Cincinnati…Recorded a stop behind the line of scrimmage in a 13-9 loss to Pittsburgh…Totaled a season-high six tackles (4 solos) and a stop for a 3-yard loss in a 48-28 victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
Thomas was awarded a medical redshirt after a lingering ankle sprain kept him out of action throughout fall camp...Won the Danny Van Etten Award from WVU coaches as the scout team player of the year on defense.
Thomas was suspended in May, 2008 when he and cornerback Ellis Langster were arrested for stealing a television during a party. They avoided jail time by entering a diversion program.
2008 Season…Thomas was injured in a helmet-to-helmet tackle of 245-pound fullback Maurice Cantrell in the Colorado game (9/18) and was on the ground for five minutes early in the game. A stretcher was brought out but Thomas eventually jumped to his feet and walked off. He said he felt better and asked the coaches if he could return but they never let him back on the field. "The doctors made the right call. They wouldn't let him return," head coach Bill Stewart said. 2010 Season…Thomas missed a good deal of August camp with a neck injury. The coaches said it was only precautionary to keep him out of live drills and he returned to the lineup to play vs. Coastal Carolina in the season opener.
CAMPUS AGILITY TESTS
4.68 in the 40-yard dash…1.72 10-yard dash…2.75 20-yard dash…4.28 20-yard shuttle… 7.23 three-cone drill…30.5-inch vertical jump…9'6" broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times…30 ¾-inch arm length…9 ¼-inch hands…74 ¼-inch wingspan.
Attended Blanche Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.) High School, playing for head coach Greg McGirt…Helped lead his team to the Florida semi-finals as a senior…Earned first-team All-Broward honors in 2005, serving as team captain for the 10-3 district champions…Member of the Rivals.com Florida Top 100 List and received a two-star prospect rating from Scout.com…Finished with 89 tackles (53 solos), five sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles that campaign, earning his team's Defensive Most Valuable Player Award and an invitation to the BCAA/Sun-Sentinel All-Star Game.
Multidisciplinary Studies major, earning West Virginia University Athletic Director's Academic Honor Roll status…Son of Andrea Blanks and J.T. Thomas, Sr…Father was a linebacker under former head coach Don Nehlen at West Virginia from 1994-95…Born James Thomas Jr., on 8/15/88…Resides in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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