Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thomas spreading his wings

Despite all the hype surrounding senior quarterback Patrick Witt's decision to skip his Rhodes Scholarship final interview so he could play in Saturday's Yale/Harvard game and the recent controversy surrounding how head coach Tom Williams portrayed his own pursuit of the Rhodes Scholarship 19 years ago, there actually is a game on Saturday. So you'll excuse me if I put this Rhodes Scholar stuff on the backburner and turn my attention to one of the key players for Yale

Senior tailback Alex Thomas came to Yale after rewriting the Connecticut High School rushing record book. It seemed like the perfect segue as former New Britain High star Mike McLeod was leaving with most of Yale's rushing records and another homegrown talent would take over for McLeod.

It didn't quite work out like that. Thomas didn't have as good of an offensive line as McLeod did earlier in his career and he was still adjusting to life as an Ivy League student-athlete as a sophomore in 2009. It all came together as Thomas ran for 124 yards against Harvard in the 2009 season finale. Now he will leave among Yale's top 15 career rushers but more than anything, he will depart Yale as a better and more confident person than he was upon arrival.

"Adjusting academically was one of the toughest things I've had to deal with in my life," Thomas said. "I think last year when I felt a little more at ease. I saw an end in sight, I saw the work paying off. It was definitely encouraging to see that improvement. This year, I am a lot more at ease and saw the improvement.


"I would say once I got halfway through my credits, at the end of the sophomore year going into junior year, I knew that I was going to make it. It was not going to be easy. It is still not over, I still have a lot of work to put in ahead. Knowing that there is an end in sight and I was going to make it was definitely encouraging to me and it carried over to every other aspect of my life here, socially and athletically."

Thomas was the leading rusher on Yale's junior varsity team as a freshman but managed just one varsity carry for one yard in 2008. Seeing most of the coaching staff leave after the season didn't make the adjustment go too easily. The new coaching staff knew of Thomas' gaudy high school numbers but also saw a kid still trying to fit in.

"It started to me with his confidence in the classroom,' Williams said. "When I got here, he was coming off that freshman year and he was an introvert, he would hardly look up, his shoulders would slump and it related to the struggle in the classroom and just get situated. Once he started to do better in school and getting used to being at Yale, his productivity increased on the football field. Now he is one of the leaders on our team. It is great to see, he smiles, you can have a conversation, he talks about a lot of stuff. It is great to see a young man blossom like that."


There will be more on Thomas in Saturday's edition of the Register.

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