Football coaches say it all the time and that speed is one thing that cannot be taught, but for Travis Thomas of Bowie (Md.), speed was his way of surviving football early in his career.
"To tell you the truth, I was kind of afraid [to play football]. I used to be small, short and kind of skinny so I was afraid of the bigger guys. I was just trying to run away from everybody," Thomas said. "I was always faster than everybody else and eventually I figured out that if I could run fast enough I could make it in football."
When Thomas entered Bowie as a freshman, he was 155 pounds and using his speed to run away from opponents.
One of Thomas' coaches told him that to succeed he would need to relearn how to run.
"One of my coaches told me, 'Travis, you have all the athleticism you need, but you need to fine-tune some of your footwork and ball skills,'" Thomas said. "I took that to heart and that's been my sole focus."
Thomas dedicated himself in the weight room after his freshman season and with some help from a growth spurt over the summer, the 155-pound freshman became a 185-pound sophomore.
With the added size, Thomas got the call to move up to the varsity team -- a move he was not entirely sure he was ready for.
"I didn't think I was going to play much, but I ended up starting at safety and made a couple starts at running back," Thomas said. "I made big plays and made five interceptions. That's when I started to realize I could take this to the next level."
Thomas improved even more as a junior.
Now 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, Thomas became the featured running back and rushed for 811 yards and five touchdowns on offense and recorded 61 tackles and three interceptions on defense. Thomas has led the Bulldogs in
interceptions in each of the past two seasons.
College coaches have begun to notice.
Thomas spent Memorial Day weekend on an unofficial visit to Richmond and is taking an unofficial visit to Connecticut on Friday, May 29.
"They [Richmond coaches] told me that I was their number one prospect at running back. All the other schools are recruiting me at safety so I was a little surprised," Thomas said of his visit to Richmond. "They [coaches] said perform well [at their one-day camp on July 11], run well, basically look good and the offer will be coming."
Thomas already took a visit to James Madison and said he wants to visit the University of Maryland to see at least one school that is close to home.
Thomas is still one of the faster players in Prince George's County -- he ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at the Scout.com Combine this spring -- but the junior is not relying on that speed like he did when he was beginning.
"I know I have the speed to run away from people, but now I have the power and size and the body-build to where if I need to run over them, I can," Thomas said. "I would describe myself as a north and south runner with speed."
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