BY DEAN HOCKNEY
GREENTOWN, Ind. – For the second time in two months, members of Josh Edwards’ Eastern High School football team gathered to watch one of their own make a college declaration. On March 28, Blake Thomas signed on the dotted line to attend Marian University in Indianapolis just 56 days after Josiah Price signed to play at Michigan State University.
“It is a good time for our program and a great time for Blake,” said Edwards, moments after Thomas signed his letter-of-intent. “Blake is very gifted. His genetics and his body adapts well to training. When you see him in the weight room he is the one putting up very impressive numbers – especially for a kid his size.”
But it wasn’t necessarily his weight room numbers that caught the eye of Marian football coach Ted Karras Jr. It might have been the 1,082 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns he posted during his senior season for the Comets. Or maybe it was the 25 catches for 503 yards and six receiving touchdowns. Or just maybe, Thomas caught the eye or recruiters by returning three kickoffs for touchdowns and scoring one more time on a special teams play. Whatever the case, Thomas will dress for the Knights next season and he plans on earning playing time as a freshman.
“They want to see me at running back and returns,” said Thomas. “I definitely want to get some playing time.”
Edwards said one of the attributes that Thomas will bring to the Knights is his work ethic and desire to win. Thomas was part of a senior class that went 1-9 their freshman year but finished 7-3 this year – one win short of a Mid-Indiana Conference title. With 18 wins, Thomas, Price and the current crop of seniors posted the best four-year span since the Comet senior class of 2003.
“He was a tremendous work ethic in the off-season and he understands that as far as him being a success – not just as an athlete but as a person – he will have to commit himself to the books and following the guidelines of the coaching staff,” said Edwards, who had one win in his first two Comet seasons, but with the help of Thomas, has 17 in the past three. “He has done that here at the high school and I am sure he will carry that with him to Marian.”
Edwards noted that Thomas gave up wrestling so he could concentrate on off-season workouts, which is a big factor in his earning a college scholarship in football. Thomas said he could tell a difference once he stopped pulling on the wrestling singlet.
“Being able to train throughout the winter allowed me to bulk up a lot and get stronger,” he said. “I could tell when I came into track that the speed I gained as a junior would be great in football.”
Marian has a strong football program under Karras, and that is one of the reasons Thomas chose the Knights. The Marian football program was started by Karras in 2007. In five short seasons he has built an empire that has an overall record of 36-22, including a 12-1 2011 season in which the Knights were MSFA Mideast League champions and NAIA Football Championship Series national semi-finalists. They finished the 2011 regular season as the No. 1-ranked NAIA squad, one year after finishing No. 7 in the final regular season poll.
“Definitely, the chance to play for an NAIA national championship is a reason I chose Marian. I wanted a place that was competitive,” said Thomas, who will study business. “And the campus is just really friendly. Everyone knows everybody and gets along. But it really was the chance to play for a national title.”
Who knows, with any luck Greentown will watch Thomas play for an NAIA national championship on the CBS Sports Network at about the same time Price is playing in a Bowl Championship Series game. It sure is a good time to be a Comet fan.