The talent on hand included big-time stars such as juniors Gadsden City wide receiver B.J. Hammond and Auburn linebacker Rashawn Smith.
But after a gauntlet of drills which included the 40-yard dash, shuttle run, broad jump and 1-on-1 passing competitions, Oxford’s Racean Thomas shined brightest. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound running back, nicknamed “Rock,” took home the overall Most Valuable Player award.
“You see him come out here and he’s a guy who already has a ton of offers and he’s only going to be a junior this fall,” said Bone, a recruiting analyst and the combine’s organizer. “He ran a 4.5 in the 40 and with the wind out here today it was tough. He came out here, worked out here and earned the MVP.”
Thomas was a first-team selection to the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 6A all-state team in his first full season on the Yellow Jackets’ varsity. He rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns on 200 carries to help Oxford go 12-2, capturing a Class 6A, Region 7 title and advancing to the state semifinals where they fell to perennial power Hoover on the road.
The competition got hotter as the temperature cooled late in the day when offensive and defensive backs squared off against one another.
With no referees, defenders took the liberty to jam receivers well beyond the permissible five yards to disrupt their timing with quarterbacks. One of Thomas’ better moments came when he hauled in a pass that was thrown slightly behind him, flinging a defender who had grabbed him to the ground in the process.
For Thomas, who competed at a combine sponsored by Nike the day before, it was just another opportunity to showcase his immense skill set and hold his home field down.
“I’m just thankful and grateful because if it’s your home school, you know you have to show out,” Thomas said. “It’s just a blessing to do good here, you don’t have too many times to do well so you have to train to be better.”
Thomas has already drawn interest from the likes of Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Clemson.
“It’s still exciting,” Thomas said of the backyard football atmosphere at the combine. “To me, when you don’t have on pads, it’s a little bit more competitive because you get to look into your competitors eyes more and get that adrenaline rush.”
This was the second consecutive season the combine was held at Oxford and participation doubled from 2011, Bone said.
Other local standouts included Piedmont defensive lineman Marquez Gamble, Central of Clay County safety/wide receiver Jamari Staples and defensive lineman DeAndre Wills and Oxford wide receiver Jarrius Orr and linebacker DeAngelo Thompson.
“The offensive players were better than I thought they would be,” Weaver running back/linebacker Brandell Massey said. “They were faster than I thought they’d be and they were stronger than I thought they’d be. But I played hard so it was straight.”
Central Phenix City’s Cameron Fraser was named the combine’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman and Gadsden City’s Finesse Middleton took home Most Outstanding Defensive Lineman honors.
Josh Morgan of Central Phenix City and Logan Mott of Mortimer Jordan were named the most outstanding defensive and offensive skill players.
“There are so many guys in this state that are Division I quality and some of them get overlooked,” Bone said. “My main goal is to see a lot of these guys, see if they have size, have the speed, have the skills to play Division I football somewhere and get them noticed.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star.