Although he started playing linebacker in high school, he’s played at fullback, linebacker, defensive end and tight end during his time in East Lansing. Injuries have limited Thomas in the past, the most recent being a back injury that restrained him last season.
Entering spring training, a now-healthy Thomas said he has a chip on his shoulder as he settles into his spot on the defensive line. Which exact spot — defensive end or tackle — is yet to be determined, as MSU coaches believe he can excel in multiple positions.
Head coach Mark Dantonio said he’s seen “flashes” of his ability at defensive end, and named him as one of the guys who have stood out in spring practice.
“He’s a guy that you remember last year, he had a shoulder injury, missed spring ball, and then he had the back episode, took him into the season and (he) really didn’t start playing until October,” Dantonio said. “This is the first time he’s been able to get his feet on the ground fundamentally in a spring practice, summer practice-type environment.”
Thomas said after the numerous position changes, he is “comfortable” with the prospect of having a defined position entering the season. Junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun, a breakout star from the defensive line a season ago, is confident Thomas is up for the job, noting his versatility as a plus.
“He was D-tackle, now he’s came out to D-end,” Calhoun. “He has a lot of potential playing inside and outside. He gets off the ball fast. He was a linebacker coming in, so you know he’s going to know the defense. He understands it and he’s going to play it to the best of his ability.”
It hasn’t been the easiest road for Thomas, but he said he never questioned whether his career was in jeopardy as he dealt with injuries. With a potential larger role awaiting, he welcomes the opportunity.
“Little league football, high school, I did a little bit of everything because I knew if someone went down, I gotta be the next man up,” Thomas said.
“I come into this season with a chip on my shoulder — I haven’t proved nothing yet.”