Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Record: 38-14, Bowl Record: 2-2 including a BCS win
J.T. Thomas came to West Virginia to follow in his father’s footsteps (J.T. Senior) to play linebacker for the Mountaineers. Thomas Jr was a talented athlete with a nasty streak. Stories of Thomas’ mean streak struck fear into the hearts of opposing players. Thomas once choked out his own teammate in practice: that’s how serious he took practice. Thomas saw action in 10 games during his sophomore season, eventually taking over as a starter by the end of the season. He would start at linebacker for the rest of his career, giving WVU a tough run stopper in the middle of the defense. The efforts of Thomas and other great defenders such as Reed Williams, Mortty Ivy, Chris Nield, etc propelled WVU’s defense to one of the best in the country in 2010. J.T. Thomas earned personal accolades for his performances in 2009 and 2010, earning All-Big East selections. Thomas’ abilities earned him a draft selection by the Chicago Bears in the spring of 2011, where he is a back-up linebacker.
Memorable Game: Thomas had a performance for the ages in the 2008 season opener against Villanova. The Mountaineers were ranked 8th in the country following the Fiesta Bowl beatdown of Oklahoma. Villanova was one of the preseason favorites to win the FCS Championship. The Mountaineers would not take the Wildcats lightly. The Mountaineer defense, led by Thomas, unleashed a flurry of blitzes against Villanova’s undersized offensive line. Thomas knifed into the backfield to collect a pair of sacks. Thomas would also block a punt to set the Mountaineers up with great field position. The Mountaineers jumped out to a 34-7 lead in the third quarter. The Mountaineers would win the game on cruise control, beating Villanova 48-21.
Competition: There was little in the way of competition for #30. I actually ask you, the reader, who else could I have picked here? Yes, there were some flashes in the pan to wear #30 like Pernell Williams, but Thomas was the best player on the field. Off the field, he was a mixed bag of character. He got in trouble with the law here and there (nothing major) and on the other hand, he took a special needs girl to her dance. So we just have to take the good with the bad.
Teaser: The countdown has finally reached the 20s. Coincidentally, tomorrow we honor the career of a player who is currently in their 20s. This player grew up playing in front of packed stadiums on Friday nights in Texas. While football may be “religion” in Texas, I think the Mountaineer fan base is equally as passionate as any Texas high school football fan. Although, unlike in Friday Night Lights, we do not close down the entire town on game days (someone has to run the bars).