West Chester Lakota West DE and Ohio State recruit is set to play his last high school football game tonight in the 62nd annual North-South All-Star Classic.
Steve Helwagen caught up with him for more on the game.
West Chester Lakota West defensive end Solomon Thomas is among four Ohio State signees who will be on display in Saturday’s Ohio North-South Classic Saturday at Crew Stadium (7 p.m., ONN).
The 6-5, 225-pound Thomas will be joined by Westerville South defensive back Rocco Pentello on the South team. Cleveland Glenville linebacker Jermale Hines and Lakewood St. Edward defensive back Nate Oliver will be on the North squad.
“It’s an honor to be on the South team,” Thomas said. “I am from southwest Ohio. I played high school football there and I want to represent the South well.”
The trip up to Columbus to play in this game marks a new chapter in Thomas’ life as he plans to stay in the city and begin his odyssey at Ohio State on Sunday.
“I tell people that as far as Columbus, there is no going home for me,” he said. “I’m in Columbus now for a long time. Right after this game, I am moving into my dorm at Ohio State. I’m excited about it.
“On Sunday, we have move-in at 8 a.m., orientation at 2:30 and classes the next day. There is no going home for me. This is my home.”
Thomas will be joined on the South team by two of his Lakota West teammates in linebacker Alex Kaufman (Miami, Ohio signee) and offensive lineman Cory Monroe. But Thomas pointed out how preparing for this all-star game is a bit different.
“It’s going to be very different,” he said. “From August to November, you prepare for games. Now we’re prepping from Sunday to Saturday for a game. It is very different. We have to get our minds right for the game. I’m willing to do it because I am a competitor at heart.”
Thomas will enroll for summer quarter on Monday at OSU. That means he will also be involved in the summer conditioning program.
“I’m excited to get my butt kicked,” he said with a smile. “I have been training for 12 months just to get my butt kicked. I know what I signed up for and I know what I have to do.”
Thomas announced his intention to verbal to OSU after his team’s first game last August. But it took several months for it to come to fruition as Thomas got the test score he needed to have.
“They were real to me and they were honest to me,” Thomas said. “Even at the time when they told me that in order to come to Ohio State I needed a test score and I did not have that test score. When I got it, they said, ‘Now you’ve got that test score. You can come here if you want.’
“It’s just that consistency. Plus, I see now how good the people are in Columbus. I have realized this is a beautiful and a great city.”
As a senior, Thomas battled some injuries and played in nine of Lakota West’s 11 games. He ended up with 34 tackles, eight tackles-for-loss, one sack and three passes broken up. Lakota West finished 8-3, qualifying for the Division I playoffs.
Thomas also talked about the chance to play for defensive coordinator/line coach Jim Heacock.
“I like his hard-nosed style of coaching,” Thomas said. “I like the idea you can go in a no one and come out a someone. That’s what I like. He doesn’t have favorites and he doesn’t play favorites. If you work hard, you can become somebody.”
Ohio State has a number of impressive returnees at defensive end, including Vernon Gholston, Lawrence Wilson, Robert Rose and Alex Barrow. Thomas said he is fine with playing or redshirting as a freshman.
“I’m a competitor,” he said. “I’m going to compete. If I’m not playing on Saturday, I’m going to make someone better who is playing on Saturday. If I get redshirted, I get redshirted. I look at that as another year of college for me, and that’s a beautiful thing. If I don’t get redshirted, that just means I have to step up faster and get my mind right.
“I’m ready to contribute to the Ohio State team any way I can and be a role player.”
Here are more comments from Thomas:
* On how OSU handled the loss to Florida — “That just tells me how hard my future teammates will be working. It just gauges their intensity. That’s the big reason why I’m happy with my decision to come to Ohio State. If they lose, they’re still going to compete. They’re not just going to sit back and relax and have a great time and be happy.”
* On his reputation in the weight room — “I am going to bring it every day and every way. I am a weight room fanatic. I love the weight room. That is my strength football-wise. I bank on the weight room. It’s not all about muscles and arms and how big you are. You compete. It’s learning the fundamentals and being a team player in the weight room.
“I feel like the weight room is my edge. I’m not the biggest and not the fastest. But I understand the importance of the weight room. I like to make my body hurt and make my body change and push myself to the next level.”
* On signing with Ohio State — “It meant a lot to sign with Ohio State. The recruiting process was great to me. It was a long process. I had to find the right fit. The people – outside the program and in football – are the reason I am coming to Ohio State. The people in Columbus are like nowhere else and I’m just thankful for it.”
* On his intensity — “I feed off other people’s intensity. I run a high motor. I feel like I’m a team player. Whether I make a tackle or one of the other guys makes a tackle, I’m a team player in every sense.”
More On The Game
The Ohio North-South Classic, sponsored by Grange Insurance, is in its 62nd year. It is the nation’s longest continuously running high school football all-star game.
The game will again be played in Columbus Crew Stadium, where the game has been played since 2001. The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, the Greater Columbus Sports Commission and Columbus Crew Stadium worked together to move the Ohio North-South Classic to Columbus in 2001 after it was held in Northeast Ohio from 1977 to 2000. Columbus-based Grange Insurance extended a title sponsorship agreement in 2005 that will keep the Ohio North-South Classic in Columbus at least through 2007.
The game will feature 29 Division I-A signees, including 12 headed to Big Ten schools.
Tickets are available for $10 by calling Crew Stadium at (614) 447-CREW.
ONN will televise the game live at 7 p.m. ONN will preview the game with an edition of Sports Site at 6:30 p.m.