Player Spotlight: Jeff Thomas
The Big Ten season kicks off this weekend with Penn State traveling to Bloomington to take on the Indiana Hoosiers. With a football team that has only won two Big Ten games in as many seasons, Hoosier fans spend much of the fall gearing up for basketball season to start.
However, there are still storylines on this Hoosiers team to interest the fans, especially that of the team’s middle linebacker, Jeff Thomas. The senior captain heads a defense that has struggled so far this season, but his attitude and constant motor has caught the attention of NFL scouts.
The bulk of the Hoosiers’ defensive responsibilities lie on the shoulders of Thomas. A former junior college standout, he leads the team in tackles (31), tackles for a loss (4) and pass break ups (4). If Indiana has any hopes of slowing down Silas Redd and the rest of the Penn State rushing attack, Thomas will have to have another career game as he had last year in Washington, D.C when he recorded a career high ten tackles against the Nittany Lions.
Born and raised in California, Thomas attended Serra High School in San Mateo, where he earned all-league and all-county honors as a fullback. Grades were an issue upon Thomas’s graduation from high school and he enrolled at Foothill Community College, a powerhouse junior college in northern California.
Thomas stepped on the field as a freshman at Foothill and immediately excelled at his new middle linebacker position. In his first season at linebacker, Thomas was an all-conference as well as an all-state selection in California. With the reputation that Foothill has as a junior college program, the school normally produces upwards of 10 to 15 Division 1 prospects to west coast universities.
Even after leading the Northern California Conference in tackles and being named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, Thomas was receiving little national attention and even more surprisingly, no attention from Pac-10 or Mountain West schools. All of the national recruiting services had him ranked as a consensus top-5 junior college linebacker in the country, but for some reason, the accolades simply did not translate into scholarship offers from big-time programs.
New Mexico State was the only west coast school to offer the 6-foot, 240-pound inside linebacker a scholarship, and Thomas ultimately chose to sign with Indiana, much to the delight of Hoosier fans.
He made an instant impact last season recording 82 tackles, 8 of which were for a loss, as well as 2 interceptions. Thomas was twice named a game captain and was also a force on special teams, being named the team’s Special Teams Player of the Year.
Picking up right where he left off last year, Thomas is beginning to draw the attention from professional scouts that he did not receive from college coaches while at Foothill. To go along with an NFL-sized body, the heart and soul of the Hoosier defense plays with a passion for the game is what has really drawn looks from scouts.
The Hoosiers will be out of many games this year by halftime, but you can be sure that Thomas will not allow his defense to let up. He is the definition of a guy that plays the full 60 minutes. Penn State will most likely walk out of Memorial Stadium Saturday with an easy win, but keeping Thomas out of the backfield will be a much more difficult task.
Matt Lawrence is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Senior / Broadcast Journalism