Coach James L. Richardson, also known by his nickname J-Lou, remembers Chad Thomas first play as a 12-year-old optimist football player in Miamis Moore Park.
Thomas, a Miami Booker T. Washington defensive end and University of Miami oral commitment, lined up for a kick return and was the last person off the field after getting the wind knocked out of him from a blind-side, crack-back block.
Richardson and Thomas both agreed that first step was a launching pad for Thomas passion for football.
From that day forward, I was like aint nobody going to hit me that hard [again], Thomas said. He helped me get better on the optimist level and I felt like I was trying to kill people on that field.
Added Richardson: Thats why he is where he is right now.
Thomas was presented with his Under Armour All-American jersey at his high school Wednesday, accepting an invitation to play in one of the nations premier high school football all-star games, to be held Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
[This is] a blessing that I got today, Thomas said.
Booker T. coach Tim Ice Harris said Thomas leadership and effort in the classroom, weight room, meeting room and on the field are some of his best qualities as a member of the No. 1 team in the country.
When you put all those things together, hes able to be in the position hes in now as an All-American, Harris said. And thats a special, special position to be in as a student-athlete.
Thomas said he hasnt set up an official visit to Miami yet because of his focus on his high school season, but plans to catch a UM home game soon.
Booker T. quarterback Treon Harris and cornerback Lamar Parker also have the honor of playing in All-American games this January. Harris, a Florida State commitment, will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio on Jan. 4, 2014. Parker, a West Virginia commitment, will play in the U.S. Marine Corps Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on Jan. 5, 2014, in Carson, Calif.
Thomas said he and Treon Harris go at it every day in practice on opposite sides of the ball, while trash talking about the UM-FSU rivalry. Teammates Nigel Bethel (cornerback) and Demetrius Jackson (defensive end) are also UM oral commitments.
[Treon] be talking about UM and I be talking about Florida State, Thomas said. I just tell him, when he gets there, hes going to have to feel us Me, Nigel and D-Jack.