Written by: Kris Shankle (@Hoosierkris)
If you follow Ian Thomas on Twitter, you know greatness is something he has searched for awhile. It’s in his Twitter handle, so it doesn’t take a lot of time to figure out how confident he is in himself.
That wasn’t always the case when it came to Thomas though. As a football prospect, he wasn’t on many radars the last four years and you could extend that even further if you go back to his high school days. Thomas attended Digital Harbor High School in Maryland. He was a three-sport athlete playing football, basketball and track. The six-foot-four tight end was talented. However, schools weren’t exactly pounding down the doors to get to him.
Thomas had plenty of reasons to just give up and focus on something else, heck anything else. Ian’s mother Martha passed away by the time he turned nine due to liver and kidney failure. Being that young and losing a parent is hard enough, as anyone who has lost a parent understands, but that isn’t even all of it. Still grieving from the loss of his mother, Ian’s father Earl passed away of a heart attack just a year later. That would be enough for most kids his age to give up and no one would’ve blamed him. I know I wouldn’t.
This is where the word greatness comes back into play though. No matter what he accomplished in the future from there would’ve been considered a success. It truly takes greatness and I’m not talking about the type of football player kind of greatness, but the kind of character, courage, heart as well as dedication to rise above that kind of thing greatness.
It isn’t surprising that the lack of attention he got in high school, and even at community college, was nothing to him compared to what he’s overcame in life. He welcomed the challenge even. He knew he had a goal and nothing was going to stop him from chasing it. He kept working and that led to Thomas ending up at Nassau Community College in New York. If you haven’t heard of it then don’t worry, you’re not the only one. It’s a junior college, which has become very popular route of late for prospects to enroll at and then use it to landing a division one offer.
Thomas, did exactly that. This time around though, schools were still not sold on him. Indiana and Texas A&M were the only two Power Five schools to come calling. Texas A&M just wanted him for depth though, and even though everyone guessed that is where he would end up according to 247 Sports, James Patton, his lead recruiter at Indiana sold him on something else.
Thomas choose to take his talents to Bloomington, Indiana and play for the Hoosiers. The tight end position was up for grabs as entering the 2016 season. Jordan Fuchs, Danny Friend, Ryan Wattercutter, Shaun Bonner and Austin Dorris were the only guys standing in the way. Coming in from the JUCO ranks, Kevin Wilson, then Indiana head coach, wanted Thomas to prove himself.
Thomas saw the field his Junior year, but not as much as he had hoped. He caught only three passes on the year. Then things changed drastically, not just for Thomas, but the whole Indiana program. The rumors began swirling about Kevin Wilson and his tenure at IU and it led to the school relieving him of his duties of head coach. Athletic Director Fred Glass moved quickly to fill the vacated spot and choose defensive coordinator Tom Allen to replace him.
Once Indiana started spring practice, Thomas’s name was one that came up a lot when people around the program would discuss potential breakout candidates. The Hoosiers didn’t have the season they wanted to start Allen’s tenure off though. With players like Tegray Scales, Rashard Fant, Chris Covington and Simmie Cobbs who joined Thomas with invites to the NFL Scouting Combine last month in Indianapolis, IU fans had high hopes.
The truth is, the Hoosiers had a rough go of it schedule wise in B1G play. It led to a 5-7 season. Thomas did flash his big time potential though and it caught the eyes of plenty. As I said before, he got an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine and once he got there he didn’t look back. Finishing in the top of several categories amongst his position. His stats weren’t jaw dropping, but not many tight ends in college do enjoy big numbers. He did haul in five touchdowns though. All this combined has led to Ian shooting up draft boards. I have seen him as high as a second-round pick in some mock drafts and usually no further than the fourth-round in his worse spots.
By now, if you haven’t learned not to doubt Ian Thomas, then I have no clue what more I could say to change your mind. He is the kind of young man you want to represent you in any form. He did just that at Indiana University and if you talk with anyone involved with the program they will tell you the same.
Football is his escape from everything he has dealt with in life. Now he will look forward to the challenge of doing it on an even higher level, the NFL. He embraces that challenge. The thing is though, those aren’t what he should be known for though. He should be known for all the characteristics he has shown in his life. The courage it took for him to not give up when the NFL seemed like a distant dream. The character it took to build his skills and use every opportunity possible to make that dream a reality even when hardly anyone was paying attention to him. The heart it took to lose both of his parents and not give up, when most in his position would’ve, so you see when it comes to using a word to describe Ian Thomas, the only one that even makes sense is greatness.
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