LSU At the Game: Thomas Provides Veteran Presence
Communications Student Assistant
That's the word defensive back Dwayne Thomas chose to describe his relationship with his Tiger teammates over the past five years.
"My teammates have been there for everything," an appreciative Thomas said.
The road traveled by the redshirt senior to get to this point has been far from easy. After playing in three of the Tigers' first four games in 2012 as a true freshman,
Thomas suffered a sports hernia that shut him down for the rest of the season. He earned a medical redshirt for that year.
Two years later as a sophomore, the New Orleans native got off to a hot start. Four games into the season, he was second on the team with 22 tackles, while also accumulating 1.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.
He was having the best season of his career going into the fifth game of the year against New Mexico State – Thomas tore the ACL in his right knee in that game, prompting another early end to his season.
Now a seasoned veteran on the 2016 Tigers squad, the 23-year-old Thomas believes his resiliency throughout those tumultuous years has shaped him as a person.
"Being a better man on and off the field," Thomas said. "I learned a lot throughout everything I've been through, from injuries to anything that held me down."
Thomas has been a key component to the Tigers' defense since returning from the ACL injury. He earned the first start of his career in his junior campaign, racking up a career-high 10 tackles against Mississippi State. He completed last season injury-free, starting in nine games.
As one of the most experienced players on Dave Aranda's defense, Thomas is also one of the most knowledgeable in terms of defensive schemes.
|LSU At the Game programs are available on campus three hours prior to game time and online while supplies last.|
"He's a guy that knows everything about our defense," fellow defensive back Tre'Davious White said. "He's a guy that's very versatile."
Versatile may be the perfect word to encapsulate Thomas as a player. Throughout his career he has played every position in the secondary, splitting time between both safety positions and cornerback while also lining up in LSU's nickel and dime packages.
"He's instinctive and he's a guy that Coach Aranda trusts," White said. "We can plug him in anywhere and at anytime if a guy goes down."
Just as Thomas credits his teammates for helping him through hard times, he attributes a lot of his success as a player to having great teammates to look up to.
"I learned a lot from Eric Reid, Jalen (Mills), Tharold Simon. It's just been a great experience for me," Thomas said. "To see those guys on the next level balling, it shows me where I'm going to be at in the future and all the great people I had around me to help me get there."
Thomas takes responsibility for passing on what he learned from the greats before him to the younger guys on this team. He notes how much he enjoys getting to see old friends at the Homecoming games.
"I miss those guys," Thomas said, " but I'm building new relationships with more guys that are going to look forward to seeing me when I come back."
Part of building those relationships is serving as a mentor to the younger players off the field. When he's off the field, however, Thomas makes sure to keep the mood light.
"One of the funniest guys on the team," White said of Thomas. "The clown of our DB room by far."
As Thomas enters the latter half of his final season as an LSU Tiger, he still appreciates being able to play under the lights in Death Valley.
"Stepping on to that field, running out of that tunnel, touching that ‘Win' bar as an LSU Tiger has been a dream come true since I was a little kid," Thomas said. "I always wanted to come out in that stadium in front of all those people and play my best."
As for the people filling the seats, the senior is unwavering in his opinion.
"We have the best fans in the SEC," Thomas declared.
Those fans saw the Tigers put together their best effort of the season thus far in a 42-7 win against Missouri. In that game, the bond between teammates that Thomas speaks of was put on display.
"That shows how as a team we just always stick together and how we all have a brotherhood on this team," said Thomas.
White mirrored that sentiment in regard to his teammate.
"I love him just like one of my own brothers," said White.
The Tigers still have high hopes for this season, and their brotherhood can help get them there.