Keir Thomas has one more chance
Jan. 16, 2020, | GCF Staff Report
Keir Thomas graduated with his guys. The Miami product and South Carolina football defensive lineman came in with the likes of Kobe Smith and D.J. Wonnum. Javon Kinlaw joined that group out of junior college a year later. All three got their bachelor’s degrees together in December.
But they’re not all leaving together. Fate had other plans for Thomas, who gets another shot at a last year and will be the really old guy in the room. Thomas said this about his second chance. “It’s crazy, man. With me being old guy a little bit this year ... me, Kinlaw and Kobe. “Last year, it was like we were the older guys. [Taylor] Stallworth, [Dante] Sawyer, those guys left. It’s nothing new to me.”
Thomas was set to be a part of the 2019 defensive line rotation as a senior before his offseason ankle surgery. Then came an infection, the lingering treatment and the challenge to catch up with his conditioning after being out of the strength program for so long. So the senior gets another senior year. Thomas said. “People (ask) did it hit you? I’m like, ‘Nah.’ Because, I mean, I’m still going to take classes and stuff, start grad school and things like that. It’s a plus.”
Thomas was a key recruit for Will Muschamp’s first class, a Christmas Day commit who had been a Florida State pledge at one point. He started as a bigger defensive end, but the staff wanted to try him out at tackle. Instead of getting some time to adapt, he was thrown into the fire in a short line rotation, undersized at 265 pounds. He became a starter for most of the next two years, once leading the defensive line in tackles and finishing second another time.
His return will give the team a certain veteran presence. The defensive front only has Brad Johnson, Aaron Sterling and Tyreek Johnson from the 2017 class. Highly rated tackles Rick Sandidge and Zacch Pickens will likely have prominent spots, while Sterling and Kingsley Enagbare project to hold down the larger end spot. Freshmen such as Alex Huntley and Jordan Burch project to play roles, and then Thomas will be in there, providing a little versatility. Muschamp said Thomas’ “leadership ability will be very valuable.”
Muschamp said. “You lose two really quality leaders and seniors inside, Javon and Kobe, two guys that have been having fantastic senior years. Dennis Wonnum, he’s another guy that’s been elected team captain in previous years.” Thomas can play both end and tackle, and has bounced around where needed. He appeared in some games late in 2019, making four tackles, one for loss, as he worked back in. Not that sitting back was in any way pleasant for him.
Thomas added. “It was hard to just sit down and watch, man. Not being able to get out and help my team. I got some brothers that are going to the next level and I’m happy for them. I met people that I that I got lifetime relationships with and it was a pleasure.”
The trainers had a date set for his return in 2019, he said, but he just didn’t recover fast enough to get back in time. After his playing days, Thomas aims to get into coaching. He said his coaches have said he should and that his personality suits the role. Next season, he’ll be a coach in some ways. He’ll be the eldest statesman, helping guys develop and grow their games. And it will be a moment of transition, with the guys he was so close to moving on while he gets one more chance.
In closing Thomas said. “We talk about it every day, like dang, y’all are really leaving me. I wish we could do it all again.”