Herring said that when making Thomas’ highlight tape for the Yellow Jackets’ awards banquet, he had to trim the video to 20 minutes. It was initially 45 minutes.
“When you see some of the runs he made against some of the best talent in Alabama, which is a good football state, words can’t describe how big he was or how good he is,” Herring said. “I’ll put it like that.
“When we got to Game 5 against Florence, who in my mind had the most athletic defense in the state of Alabama, they, of course, keyed on him. They had six D-I commits on defense, supposedly. Nobody on that defense who was a D-I player really was on the same field with him that night. If they were Division-I then you could also say Roc is Division-0, if you’re counting down.”
Thomas, an Auburn commitment, rushed for 2,211 yards and 32 touchdowns for the season. He averaged 9.8 yards a carry, earning him The Anniston Star’s Calhoun County Class 4A-6A player of the year award.
“I feel like I got a lot accomplished in my senior year,” Thomas said. “I don’t really think I had a standout year, but we were really young and I thought it was big with us coming off not going to the playoffs to going to the second round.”
And yet, there will always be a small amount of wonder what Thomas could have done if he didn’t miss time and play less than 100 percent at times due to injuries. The tailback’s night was cut short in the season opener from a mild concussion, and he sprained his ankle the following week against Clay-Chalkville, but stayed in the game.
Thomas played sparingly against Gadsden City the following week and came back fully healthy against Florence. However, the ankle injury showed up again in Oxford’s playoff loss to Bob Jones and again two weeks ago during practice for the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game.
“It’s very frustrating. I don’t like being out and not being able to run. I want to be able to do whatever I want to do,” Thomas said. “I just don’t like not being able to play to the best of my ability. But right now I just have to keep working at it, rehabbing it and stuff like that.”
Thomas, who added he’s “much better now,” did have a chance to get to know fellow Auburn commitments better while in Montgomery. He said they “bonded and had a great time together.”
The tailback is still on schedule to play in the Under Armour All-American Bowl on Jan. 2, in Tampa. A month later, Thomas will sign with Auburn, which he showed a lot of excitement and optimism for.
“We have a great recruiting class and I think we’ll do the same thing that we did this year next year and have an outstanding season, win a lot of games,” he said. “We really just need to bond together. I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’ll be great.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star