Chris Thomas, after starting as Largo High School’s quarterback in 2010, was ineligible last season. But each time he spoke with coach David Fant — about twice a month — Thomas assured Fant he’d be eligible this year.
Fant said he has held that same conversation many times. Some players follow through and some don’t. But nearly all of them promise they’ll improve their grades, so naturally, Fant has become a bit skeptical.
“Unfortunately, I can only believe what I see,” Fant said.
Well, Thomas became eligible, showing Fant something to believe.
But then Thomas asked Fant to take a blind chance.
Like many players before him, Thomas asked to borrow a football to practice between summer 7-on-7 scrimmages.
Fant said he usually says no, because most players wouldn’t actually practice or wouldn’t return the ball. Some might even do neither. But Fant took a leap of faith with Thomas and let him borrow the ball.
It has paid off.
After spending time throwing to Diante Taylor, Malik Scott, Dimonte Cosbert and Danny Worthing during the summer, the speedy Thomas has helped Largo win four straight after an 0-2 start — already besting the 3-7 record the team posted in the previous three seasons.
“I really had to work the hardest, because I missed a year,” Thomas said. “I missed a year, but I had to train like I never missed a year.”
Thomas said not playing as a junior was “the worst thing that I could ever do.” He attended games unsure whether he should sit in the bleachers or stand on the sidelines.
In his extra time, Thomas helped his father repair cars and his mother cook. But he really missed football, so he worked harder in the classroom.
Thomas knew he had done enough to become eligible, though he still needed confirmation. So, each day after the school year ended, he checked online to see whether his grades had been posted. Finally, after about two weeks, Thomas saw he’d passed. He immediately ran outside and kept running until he burned off some of the excitement.
“I couldn’t wait for the practices to start,” Thomas said.
Thomas was the first to arrive for 7-on-7 practices and scrimmages and the last to leave, justifying Fant’s faith. Thomas said he progressed more this summer than at any point in high school career.
A few colleges asked about Thomas’ college prospects during his sophomore year, but interest waned as he sat out last year. Recently, though, Shepherd and North Carolina Central inquired about him.
“Someone will bite,” Fant said. “He’s a phenomenal talent.”
Fant praised Thomas for helping turn around Largo’s season and though the quarterback had help, he has one skill few can match.
“He’s able to turn a bad play into a good play,” Fant said.