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Hilltoppers RB Thomas a tough chore for defenses

Douglas Fritz • Aug 6, 2019 at 1:20 AM

JOHNSON CITY — Off the field, Chris Thomas has a knack for making people laugh.

Put a football in his hands, and it’s not a joking matter for opposing defenses.

Thomas can stake a claim as Northeast Tennessee’s premier running back. The Science Hill senior is 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, and fast — as in a time of 4.5 in the 40. He rushed for 1,522 yards and scored 17 touchdowns last season for the Hilltoppers, and coach Stacy Carter said Thomas is the best running back he’s ever coached.

Just for Fun With Chris Thomas
Q. Do you like the RPO (run-pass option) offense? A. “I do. They come hard at me, and we fake it to me, and they think I have the ball. We just throw it over the top. It can open some space in there.”
Q. How would you sell yourself to major-college programs? A. I am a hard worker. I don’t like anything given to me. I like competing with other people, and I feel that’s perfect for college because you have guys in front of you who are better than you. I will just work harder than them and hopefully get a spot.”
Q. What NFL running back do you most resemble? A. Ezekiel Elliott. He has power and speed, just like me. He’s fast and can outrun the secondary, but when he needs to put his shoulder down he can also do that.
Q. What is something you do when the team breaks the huddle and heads to the line of scrimmage for a running play? A. I have to see if the defense is going to blitz. If they blitz in the hole I’m going, I have to try to make a move. So I have to pre-read the gap before the play starts.

Thomas moved to Johnson City from Greenville, South Carolina, six years ago, and the transition was made easier by his sense of humor.

“It went smooth,” he said. “I was kind of like the joker. I made everybody laugh. But I am serious when the game starts.”

Thomas said the move turned out good for him.

“I started playing football when I moved up here,” he said. “I really didn’t play any sports down there.”

BIG INFLUENCE

Thomas credited his dad, Michael, for helping him become a successful football player.

“He pushed me a lot,” Chris Thomas said. “He didn’t want me to do what he did when he was younger. He was a two-way athlete. He played basketball and football, but he was mainly a football player.”

After a laugh, Thomas smiled and added: “He said I got my talent from him.”

Thomas said his dad tries to push him to be the best he can be. The dreams don’t stop at being a high school standout. Nor do they end with college ball.

“My dad wants me to make it to the big-time league because he never had a chance to do it,” Thomas noted. “I’m going to do it for him.”

The next step on that tall ladder is a strong senior season, which could open doors to the Power 5 level in college. Thomas already has drawn plenty of attention from FCS schools, like East Tennessee State and Western Carolina.

TASKS AT HAND

Thomas said the Hilltoppers will have to work harder this year for offensive success, especially early in the season.

“We have some returning guys, but our line is young,” he said. “We’re going to have to work with them and get them to play at the varsity level. They’re all talented. When we get them ready for the varsity, they’re going to be good.

“We just have to come together and work as a team — no selfishness, no pouting, all cheering for each other — and it’s going to be a good season.”

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