January 25, 2013
Exit Interview: Tommie Thomas
Tommie Thomas might be best known for his upbeat personality more so than for his production on the football field.
The wide receiver, an Illinois native who came to Purdue in 2008 as a defensive back, caught only four passes for 31 yards in his career, all late this season, and scored a touchdown in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Injuries, about one a season it seemed, largely kept him off the field.
But based on talking to his teammates, Thomas had a big impact, keeping the Boilers' spirits up during difficult times. Following, Thomas sits down with GoldandBlack.com for his senior "Exit Interview."
GoldandBlack.com: What are your best memories of Purdue?
Thomas: "First off I just remember the first day we got here, the first day we actually walked into the Union, checking into camp. I was just a young freshman who didn't know anything. I was just trying to find my way basically. I remember that. I remember all the great guys I've met, ever since my first year here in 2008 as I came in as a freshman.
"I remember the first time I ran out of the tunnel for a game and seeing my family in the stands and seeing that Big Ten crowd and seeing how big a change it was from high school. I've seen a lot, met a lot of people, a lot of great people and still keep in contact with some of those people and I hope to catch up with some that left. I have a lot of great memories and a lot of things I won't forget."
GoldandBlack.com: You'd had been close to getting playing time during parts of your career, particularly last season and this. But injuries kept you from really getting a chance, right?
Thomas: "There was a lot of different things. I felt my freshman year when I came in I was playing safety and I was actually pretty good as a safety, playing on the scout team, stuff like that. I probably wasn't the biggest guy, but I made a lot of plays during camp and practice, things like that. I had a clear view that I wanted to play my freshman year, but I knew that my body wasn't ready physically. I couldn't go out there and compete with those guys at the size that I was at.
"Then, switching to receiver, I got hurt my second year (there), my ankle. I was still trying to figure it out, how to become a Big Ten receiver, period. So I tried to use that year basically as another redshirt year, but being hurt I couldn't really play anyway.
"My junior year, I was actually ready. I felt like I was ready to contribute, stuff like that, and then I got hurt right before the season. I did rehab and came back and didn't feel like I dropped off any from what I had. I felt like I was still the same guy from before I got hurt, so I felt like I was ready to play, but it wasn't my call to make those decisions. Injuries are a part and there are things I can't control, but any way I go I try to stay positive."
GoldandBlack.com: And you got hurt at the start of this season, and missed half the year.
Thomas: "And yeah, right before this season, one of the most serious injuries. I broke my foot. I don't know how that happened, it was kind of weird. I was used to running routes, stuff like that, but my legs weren't ready for all the cutting, especially because I was playing a bunch and had added stress because my body wasn't fully molded. But when I came back, I wasn't fully ready, but I got my chance and tried to make the most of it when I could get out there."
GoldandBlack.com: Despite not playing much, you've always been a guy who's had a positive attitude, had a great personality and been well-liked by a lot. Was that where you tried to make a mark?
Thomas: "Most definitely. I had to stay positive. Because I wasn't playing, I wasn't going to let it tear me down and bring other guys down on the team and let my attitude affect everybody else. I just thought of it in a positive way. I've always been like this, so it was nothing that I had to adjust to. It was just me, I was being myself and being the goofy guy and making everybody laugh, and teaching guys, the younger guys like Dolapo Macarthy, teaching him the system and stuff like that, it wasn't hard for me to do because it's the type of guy that I am, it's the way I was raised to be able to not let one thing bring you or other people down. I was just always a positive guy, a happy guy, a got along with a lot of people; I don't see many that I didn't get along with while I was here. I hope that I touched a lot of people here and taught them to just stay positive no matter what you go through. Things are going to happen and you might have things you just can't get through by yourself but if you've got people around you to help you get through those things, it would be a lot easier. I just stay positive and try to be that guy to keep it loose. It did kind of help me get through tough times while I was here."
GoldandBlack.com: During the five-game losing streak this year, that had to help.
Thomas: "I hope it did. I knew for sure when we knew that we needed to win those last three, I tried to step up a lot. I always told the guys in the receiver meeting to do something that you didn't do yesterday, or do something that you didn't do last week, try to change something. I was just trying to keep everybody motivated and positive to let them know that we can come out with the three wins we need to make it to a bowl game. I feel like I made a good positive impression on those guys and I think I helped them a lot.
From the knowledge that I gained I feel like I had a huge impact on those guys, which is my main goal."
GoldandBlack.com: You became good friends with Robert Marve. How did that happen? Did you know him from before, both being Florida natives?
Thomas: "I didn't know Robert when he first came here. He came from the University of Miami, which was one of my dream schools growing up, so I always followed him. I saw their games, things like that, and once I heard about the news that he might coming, we tried to figure out more about who he was. And when he committed, it wasn't for a while until we started to be friends and were talking and things. We had a couple conservations. We just started hanging out and grew real close.
"We ended up living with each other and my relationship grew from there. It was a good relationship and we still are friends. We've been through a lot. The things he goes through, I go through. He always there to talk to me about anything that is going on. And he's always checking on my opinion on things, I was always that guy to help him out."
GoldandBlack.com: Name a breakout offensive player for 2013.
Thomas: "Dolapo Macarthy and Gary Bush are my breakout guys for sure."
GoldandBlack.com: What do you like about Dolapo?
Thomas: "Dolapo's work ethic is just insane. He takes everything so serious and he puts so much time into everything, just seeing him grow when I was there you could just see (the potential). I'm really a supporter of his, as far as him being a breakout guy, with his size he can go up and get the ball."
GoldandBlack.com: Defensive player?
Thomas: "Most definitely, Frankie Williams. He is a young guy who played with experience last year; he didn't give up too many catches. He's so aggressive and smart, a high football IQ. For him to only be a freshman last year, it was amazing."
GoldandBlack.com: Pick a captain for the 2013 team.
Thomas: "Hum, let me think. I'm still picturing the senior guys.
Oh, there is it: Sean Robinson. Most definitely. That guy is very motivated, very passionate about the game of football. And seeing him make that transition from quarterback to linebacker that quickly and play, I've never seen that before in all the years I've played football. He's got what it takes to be a leader."
GoldandBlack.com: Who is the best player you played with at Purdue
Thomas: "Out of all my years at Purdue?
I've got two in mind. No. 1 is a quarterback, and of course Rob, just because of his challenges and knowledge of the game. And him not having an ACL, seeing that and seeing him play at a high level, that was amazing. It was a great quarterback and great to play with in college football when he was given a chance.
"Another guy who I could say was the best I played with, and he's still there, is Gabe Holmes. He's got a lot of potential and just seeing it day-in and day-out, if he could avoid injuries that kid is going to be great, he is definitely an NFL talent just waiting to happen. He runs like a receiver, he catches the ball, great hands, has the focus. When he's determined, he's a great player, one of the best I've played with. Because of the injuries that's slowed him down, but being in practice with him every day I see it. He's going to be a great player."
GoldandBlack.com: OK, an off-the-wall question. Your name
is it Thomas Thomas?
Thomas: "Oh no. My real name is actually Tommie and my last name is Thomas. My mom always told me 'Don't be ashamed of your of your name,' but I was very ashamed and I always got made fun of because I had two first names, everybody used to tell me. But she decided that my grandfather, he was a veteran who served our country, and she always really loved her dad and wanted to name one of her sons after him, and I guess it was me. And my father's last name happened to be Thomas so that's how I got the last name. It was basically the same name. I used to hate it, but now I don't mind, whatever."
GoldandBlack.com: It seems to suit you now, I think.
Thomas: "Most definitely. It definitely does. I can't complain."
GoldandBlack.com: What's next for you? I assume you've graduated.
Thomas: "Yeah, I graduated (in December), but am still living on campus. I have a couple job possibilities lined up for me, but right now I'm taking time off, getting my body back into shape, stuff like that.
I've got some time."
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