To get anywhere near the statistical stratosphere currently inhabited by Ethan Thomas, a person would need more than just the Elizabethton Cyclones’ football playbook.
Because it’s not just about knowing the play or figuring out which hole to hit. And it’s not only having a sturdy pair of legs, broad shoulders and a good set of lungs.
Perhaps the most crucial elements to Thomas’ success are eyes that see more than just the next yard, and the sixth sense of a shared purpose with those who block for him.
“I think I have good vision,” said the 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior during Friday’s media picture day at Rider Field. “I feel like I can see things. I see green grass and then I look for the defense. I look for my teammates and try to follow them. Instincts help, too.
“And me and the linemen are just so tight. I can tell by their body movement where they’re going to go. Being with them for four, five or six years, I can see what they do. I’m mind-reading them, and they are mind-reading me.”
Yeah, so try tackling that. Most teams have been unsuccessful as Thomas has gained 4,368 yards and scored 44 touchdowns in three varsity seasons.
Over his last 24 games, Thomas’ remarkable consistency has allowed him to gain over 100 yards rushing 22 times. The only two games he didn’t get to 100 were limited-carry performances against Sullivan East (7 attempts for 90 yards last year) and Johnson County (8 for 73 in 2012). He also had a 100-yard game as a freshman.
Of course, Thomas gets the football more than the average high school running back. He has carried 505 times, averaging 8.6 yards per carry.
To get that many shots at yardage, a player needs the full backing of a head coach, like Shawn Witten.
“It has definitely helped a lot,” said Thomas in a sound clip available on Twitter@FritzBlitzzz. “You look at all of the running backs in college right now, and look at their high school years. They got the rock all the time. Coach Witten knows what he’s doing. He’s a great coach, and I love him to death.”
Thomas said the 5,000-yard mark, or perhaps even the 6,000 milestone, aren’t pressure makers. Instead they give him a place to aim his sights.
“It’s a motivator,” said Thomas. “I just do the best I can.”
And Thomas’ best is always a product of the top-notch efforts of the Trench Warriors.
“The offensive line is great,” said Thomas. “That’s the reason I have all of those yards. It’s everybody blocking, and it’s the receivers and quarterbacks, too. If they aren’t getting the ball, they’re OK with that.”
Of course, everybody has room for improvement, and Thomas said high feet can help him.
“The main thing is keeping my knees up, like Coach (Travis) Hurley says,” said Thomas. “That’s been my biggest problem since I don’t know when.”
Since peewee ball?
“Yes, sir,” said Thomas with a laugh.
For most of his career, Thomas has let his rushing efforts be his leadership contribution. That could change some this year.
“I’m not the vocal kind of leader,” said Thomas. “I’m a silent leader. But I’m going to jump in there before a game and get everybody hyped, and light that fire if I can.”
As for the physical preparations, Thomas said his workouts center on consistency.
“You just try to work hard every day,” he said. “I workout as much as I can. I mow yards just to try to stay active, and I don’t sit on the couch. And I’m drinking a lot of water, trying not to get cramps.”
But when it comes to food, don’t try to sneak a box of Dunkin’ Donuts past Thomas.
“Right now to be completely honest I eat everything,” said Thomas with a laugh. “I eat doughnuts, potato chips, everything. I don’t have a problem gaining or losing weight.”
When thinking about 2015, Thomas said he wants to be in a spotlight program.
“I would really like to play Division I anywhere,” he said. “I want to play in the SEC or the ACC or somewhere like that. I definitely think I can.”
Thomas said he’s had conversations with Tennessee, Arizona (yes, he said he would go that far), Missouri, Virginia Tech and Duke. ETSU, Austin Peay and Furman are also on the radar.
“I would go to a smaller school, but my goal is to play for a really big school,” said Thomas.comments powered by Disqus