Coming off a season in which he logged only two carries, redshirt freshman Brandon Thomas knew that he would have to step up in a major way if he were to gain the starting running back position. Seen as one of the deepest positions on the roster, becoming the starting running back as a redshirt freshman would have been next to impossible without putting in the work. Experienced players such as Rodrigues Clark, Marquavious Weaver, and Kylan Watkins weren’t going to let Thomas be the featured running back without providing stiff competition.
For many freshmen, sitting out a year and redshirting would be a big ego check. But for Thomas, it was a necessity, and it prepared him for his breakout during the early games of the season. In 5 games so far, he’s rushed for over 500 yards and has scored 5 touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns and running backs coach Anthony Jones marveled at the work Thomas put in to become the impact player that he is today. His early success comes as no surprise to both men.
“I think that Brandon redshirting really helped his growth as a football player and as a young man,” Jones said. “He overcame some personal situations and issues to blossom into the player that he is today, but most importantly, he’s a player of high character and integrity.”
After bursting onto the collegiate scene with 147 rushing yards against Nicholls State in his first contest, even Thomas was in awe of the obstacles he overcame to shine on the biggest stage of his career thus far.
“It took a lot of hard work and coaching and people believing that I could do this at a high level,” Thomas said after the Tigers defeated Nicholls State University 42-17 in the season opener. “It was a process to get to where I am, and I am now taking things more seriously than I did last year.
Throughout Thomas’s time on campus, Johns has seen him mature by the day, and the offensive coordinator is confident Thomas is miles ahead of where he was last year.
“Mentally and physically, Brandon grew from sitting down and watching the action last season,” Johns said. “I am not surprised he is performing as well as he did because he pushed himself in a way that I did not see last year.”
Despite being at the front of the line when it comes to getting carries in a very loaded backfield, Thomas maintains a sense of humility when it comes to discussing his playmaking abilities. He prefers to give credit to his offensive line and the older running backs who instruct him on how to approach various situations.
“The offensive line for us leads the way and we have a lot of running backs that all do different things, and they’re my brothers, so there’s no sense of jealousy, just unity.”