National Signing Day: Booker T. Washington’s Chad Thomas appears headed to UM, music school


Chad Thomas, a musically gifted All-American defensive end from Booker T. Washington, is expected to sign with Miami on Wednesday.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Defensive force</span>: Chad Thomas, right, made 71 tackles and recorded eight sacks last season for Booker T. Washington.
Defensive force: Chad Thomas, right, made 71 tackles and recorded eight sacks last season for Booker T. Washington.
Al Diaz / Miami Herald Staff

Top 25 local players

1. Dalvin Cook, RB, Central, 5-11, 192, Florida State (enrolled)

2. Ermon Lane, WR, Homestead, 6-3, 193, Undecided

3. Chad Thomas, DE, Booker T. Washington, 6-5, 240, Miami

4. Joseph Yearby, RB, Central, 5-9, 190, Miami (enrolled)

5. Travonte Valentine, DT, Champagnat, 6-3, 338, Undecided

6. Trevor Darling, OL, Central, 6-41/2, 327, Miami (enrolled)

7. Treon Harris, QB, Booker T. Washington, 5-11, 180, Undecided

8. Jojo Robinson, ATH, Northwestern, 6-0, 183, Undecided

9. Quinton Flowers, QB, Jackson, 6-0, 203, USF

10. Nigel Bethel, CB, Booker T. Washington, 5-9, 173, Texas Tech

11. Mike Smith, OLB, 6-2, Northwestern, 6-2, 210, Miami

12. Demetrius Jackson, DE, Booker T. Washington, 6-4, 220, Miami

13. Jacob McCrary, WR, Coral Reef, 6-0, 170, West Virginia

14. Michael Johnson, S, Champagnat, 6-3, 180, Louisville

15. Alin Edouard, QB, Hialeah, 6-1, 180, Syracuse

16. Lamar Parker, WR, Booker T. Washington, 5-8, 152, West Virginia

17. C.J. Worton, WR, South Dade, 6-1, 175, Undecided

18. Gilbert Johnson, WR, Southridge, 6-2, 190, Georgia

19. Steve Ishmael, WR, North Miami Beach, 6-2, 170, Syracuse

20. Trayone Gray, ATH, Carol City, 6-2, 210, Miami

21. Nico Pierre, QB, Coral Reef, 6-1, 201, Duke

22. Deatrick Nichols, CB, Miami Central, 5-10, 180, USF

23. Tyre Brady, WR, South Dade, 6-3, 187, Miami

24. Kendrick Edwards, WR, Miami Norland, 6-6, 205, Arkansas

25. Ryan Mayes, CB, Northwestern, 6-2, 180, Miami

Top undecided locals

• Isaiah McKenzie, WR, American Heritage (UF, Ole Miss, Virginia Tech or Georgia), 8 a.m.

• Gilbert Johnson, WR, Homestead (USF or Georgia), 8 a.m.

• Treon Harris, QB, Booker T. Washington (FSU, UF, Auburn or Miami), 9 a.m.

• C.J. Worton, WR, South Dade (Florida or West Virginia), 9 a.m.

• JoJo Robinson, WR, Northwestern (FSU, USF or Arkansas), 10 a.m.

• Ermon Lane, WR, Homestead (FSU, UF), 10 a.m.

• Travonte Valentine, DT, Champagnat (LSU or Miami), 10:30 a.m.

• Ravian Pierce, TE, Plantation (FAU or Mississippi Stte), 1 p.m.

• Chris Lammons, CB, Plantation (South Carolina or Wisconsin), 1 p.m.

Barring an unexpected, last-second change of heart that would stun his family, coaches and even himself, Booker T. Washington All-American defensive end Chad Thomas said he plans on signing a National Letter of Intent with the University of Miami on Wednesday morning.

“There’s no suspense,” said Thomas, days before taking his final official visit to Alabama this past weekend. “I’ve been throwing up ‘The U’ [with my hands] since the first game of the season. I’m not really trying to build suspense or get anybody fired up or rowdy.”

If Thomas, the only five-star recruit in UM’s recruiting class, doesn’t flip his commitment to Alabama or Florida State, he’ll be one of the few elite players in Miami-Dade County to stay with the first school he committed to. Of the top 10 players in Dade, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, six have pulled back from a college commitment at least once during their recruitment.

Booker T. quarterback Treon Harris (Florida State commitment with interest in UM, Florida and Auburn) and Northwestern receiver Jojo Robinson (FSU commitment with interest in TCU, South Florida and Arkansas) could increase that number to eight if they sign elsewhere Wednesday.

There’s strong reason to believe Thomas won’t make it nine. That’s because he has been in love with the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music since well before UM’s coaching staff fell in love him.

“I thought he was full of it when he told me he played all these instruments and was a musician,” Booker T. Washington coach Tim “Ice” Harris said.

“Then he started playing them in front of me, showing me his beats, breaking it down. I was impressed.”

Thomas, who helped lead the Tornadoes to back-to-back state championships and a national title this season, said he fell in love with music at the age of 3 while listening to his late grandmother’s gospel CDs. Thomas said that as a toddler his grandmother bought him a toy guitar, and signed him up for piano lessons. By the time he was 5, Thomas said he was performing songs such as I’ll Take You There by the Staple Sisters on the piano and playing various instruments from the tuba and trumpet to the drums and bass.

After his grandmother passed away when he was 7, Thomas, an only child, said he would often care for himself because his parents were too busy working. On the bus ride and walk home from school, Thomas said he would usually entertain himself by creating his own beats. By the time he was in middle school, Thomas said he convinced his father, Chad Sr., a computer technician, to buy him an MC-808 sound generator.

“I remember when he took me to Sam Ash to go get it,” said Thomas, who attended classes at the New World School of the Arts until coaches were finally able to convince him to attend classes at Booker T. his senior year. “It was over $1,000. I told my dad there had to have been something in his brain saying this is going to make him and me money in the future.”

Thomas, a fan of beatmakers Timbaland, Louis V and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, said he has been trying to sell his own beats to musicians now for the last couple years. This past year, he finally found someone who was interested. It was local artist Lil Dred, the 20-year-old rapper and son of former UM cornerback Nate Brooks. Since its release in October, their song No Shone Remix has been played more than 245,000 times on SoundCloud.

Thomas, who has produced other popular tracks titled Thottie, She Weak and Overtime, said he has performed on some of his own tracks in clubs, parties and other places dozens of times. He said he has split the money he makes off what he produces and performs “50-50’’ with his mother, Stefanie Jones, a school director of a local day care.

“As a singer he’s more like a Drake type — singing but with a rap feel,” Booker T. Washington offensive coordinator Tim Harris Jr. said. “When it comes to instruments and music engineering, I think UM is ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in those fields. With his contacts in the music industry here in the city of Miami, that’s why it’s always been UM for Chad. ... Football-wise, Chad knows he can play at any school he wants to. But music is so important to him.”

Said Thomas: “It’s always been in my mind to go to school there. Football is not for long. I can go down with a knee injury tomorrow, but I know I’ll always be able to move my fingers and play an instrument, click a mouse.”

Thomas, who maintains a 3.3 grade-point average and scored an 18 on the ACT exam (well within the guidelines to qualify for UM), said he didn’t begin playing football until he was 12 at Gwen Cherry Park because when he was young he had asthma and a heart murmur. Thomas said he had to convince his parents to let him play.

Now an Under-Armour All-American and tabbed as the third-best defensive end in the country by 247Sports, Thomas says he has so much passion for football he usually cries before games.

With the Hurricanes in dire need of help along the defensive line, Booker T.’s coaches — who saw Thomas rack up 71 tackles and eight sacks this past season — believe Thomas has the size and maturity to help UM as soon as he walks through the doors in Coral Gables come June.

“People around the country talk about the pride we have here in high school and optimist [football],” said Thomas, who said he has had a green 1998 Ford Mustang parked in his mother’s driveway waiting to take him to college since last year.

“I know there’s a lot players who have that same pride at UM, but they’ve just got to put it all together and play like a team like back in the ’80s. We’ve got to bring that love, that passion for the game, and fight to make each other better every day. And I believe we will.”

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