The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sports

December 30, 2009

Thomas: ‘I’m a Mountaineer’

West Virginia linebacker grew up a Florida State fan

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — West Virginia linebacker J.T. Thomas grew up a Florida State fan.

And he makes no bones about it.

But when it came to picking a school, it was his father’s alma mater that came calling. And made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“My father played here and I followed them a little bit,” Thomas said. “But I was a Florida State fan, more than Miami or Florida. But when it came down to picking a school, (West Virginia) gave me the best offer.”

Now, you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who bleeds the ol’ gold and blue more than Thomas.

“When I go out on the field, I represent the state of West Virginia every time I put on the uniform,” the junior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said, tapping his helmet. “I’m a Mountaineer.”

That’s why Friday’s Gator Bowl matchup with Florida State is so huge for Thomas.

“We get a chance to have a 10-win season,” he said. “And now I get a chance to play against coach (Bobby) Bowden. It really is a dream come true for me.”

Known as the “tackle monster,” it was a monster season for the all-Big East linebacker.

He had a career-best 71 tackles and defended seven passes with two interceptions.

“People see me getting around the football a lot,” Thomas said. “Good things happen when you are in the area of the football. That’s the way I try to play.”

“J.T. is a Florida guy,” defensive back Sidney Glover, an native of Ohio, said.

“He plays with an attitude. He likes to attack people.”

He admits the game has a special meaning to the Florida natives on the team.

“Guys on the team from Florida, we’re like a pack,” Thomas said. “It’s good to have guys from your area because it makes you feel like you’re at home in a way.”

“For guys like J.T., sometimes they want to play so sky-high when they play (a Florida team),” coach Bill Stewart said. “Not many of our lads were recruited by Florida State.”

None have shown up quite like Thomas. The former Seminoles’ fan.

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