November 13, 2009
Chris Thomas is healthy, which is good news for Air Force fans.
Alas, this is bad news for mothers of UNLV receivers and running backs. Sorry, Vegas moms, but there’s no escaping this truth:
Your boys are in grave peril today at Falcon Stadium.
For much of this season, Thomas hobbled around with an excruciating groin injury. He played in pain at 80 percent of his capability, which lowered the danger level for invaders of his territory.
But Thomas, Air Force’s senior strong safety, is back to violent ways. This explains why defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter was in a happy mood this week.
“We’re going to bring Chris from some different spots,” DeRuyter said. “We’re going to accentuate what he does. We’re going to show (the Rebels) some things they haven’t seen.”
This is frightening news for Air Force’s opponents. The Falcons’ defense has ranked as the best of the decade with a limited Thomas. Just think what the Falcons can do with an unlimited Thomas.
Thomas talked about his recovery as he walked off the practice field earlier this week. He’s hopeful for a strong finish to his Air Force career.
“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun when you’re completely healthy.”
His problems began in Minneapolis in Air Force’s second game against Minnesota. He was moving fast when he felt a severe pain in his midsection. He had suffered a tear to his groin muscle.
This is one of the most painful injuries possible, but Thomas refused to leave the game.
“Which is almost ridiculous,” coach Troy Calhoun said.
Any sane person, Calhoun suggested, would have surrendered to the pain and retired to the bench.
But Thomas is only borderline sane when he’s on the field, and Calhoun admires his defensive star’s slightly loony approach.
During games, Thomas travels to a distant land, where he becomes a different creature. He’s quiet, polite and unassertive when he takes off his helmet, but he stalks the secondary as a raging football beast.
I’ve seen a few glimpses of this version of Thomas. After losses, most players manage to talk calmly.
If he loses, Thomas is a worthless quote. He remains locked in his enraged football trance, which leaves him almost mute.
An ordinary football player would have been forced off the field in Minnesota.
Thomas isn’t ordinary. Even though his body was throbbing with pain, he never considered leaving the action.
The day after the Minnesota loss, Thomas’ entire right leg was purple. Football coaches are accustomed to grotesque injuries, but DeRuyter could barely look at the leg.
“Gross,” DeRuyter said.
The Air Force training staff said Thomas could miss three or four games. He missed one, the Falcons’ rout at New Mexico, before limping back to the lineup.
He was, no doubt, an altered, limited player.
Thomas specializes in surprise blitzes, but lacked the quickness required to explode from the defensive backfield. He also specializes in mind-altering hits, but his violent fire was dampened by his aching body.
“It’s frustrating when you can’t make the plays you want to make, the plays you used to make,” Thomas said.
But that was yesterday.
Today, a healthy Thomas will police the Air Force secondary, looking to inflict a good, clean hurt on anyone silly enough to challenge him.
This development is great news if you’re an Air Force fan.
But Vegas mothers would be wise not to watch.