Barring an unexpected, last second change of heart that would stun his family, coaches and even himself, Booker T. Washington All-American defensive end Chad Thomas said he plans on signing a National Letter of Intent with the University of Miami on Wednesday morning.
“There’s no suspense,” said Thomas, days before taking his final official visit to Alabama this past weekend. “I’ve been throwing up ‘The U’ [with my hands] since the first game of the season. I’m not really trying to build suspense or get anybody fired up or rowdy.”
If Thomas, the only five-star recruit in UM’s recruiting class, doesn’t flip his commitment to Alabama or Florida State, he’ll be one of the few elite players in Miami-Dade County to stay with the first school he committed to. Of the top 10 players in the Dade according to 247Sports' Composite rankings, six have pulled back from a college commitment at least once during their recruitment.
Booker T. quarterback Treon Harris (Florida State commitment with interest in UM, Florida and Auburn) and Northwestern receiver Jojo Robinson (FSU commitment with interest in TCU, South Florida and Arkansas) could increase that number to eight if they sign elsewhere Wednesday.
There’s strong reason to believe Thomas won’t make it nine. That’s because he’s been in love with the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music since well before UM’s coaching staff fell in love him.
“I thought he was full of it when he told me he played all these instruments and was a musician,” Booker T. Washington coach Tim “Ice” Harris said.
“Then he started playing them in front of me, showing me his beats, breaking it down. I was impressed. Over the last two years every time we've been on road trips with the team, Chad would get on the big piano in the hotel we were staying at and everybody would stop to listen to him play. Now, I joke with him and say I want to be a music major too.”
Thomas, who helped lead the Tornadoes to back-to-back state championships and a national title this season, said he fell in love with music at the age of three while listening to his late grandmother’s gospel CDs. Thomas said as a toddler his grandmother bought him a toy guitar, and signed up him for piano lessons. By the time he was five, Thomas said he was performing songs such as ‘I’ll Take You There' by the Staple Sisters on the piano and playing various instruments from the tuba and trumpet to the drums and bass.
After his grandmother passed away when he was seven, Thomas, an only child, said he would often care for himself because his parents were too busy working. On the bus ride and walk home from school, Thomas said he would usually entertain himself by creating his own beats. By the time he was in middle school, Thomas said he convinced his father, Chad Sr., a computer technician, to buy him an MC-808 sound generator.
“I remember when he took me to Sam Ash to go get it,” said Thomas, who attended classes at the New World School of the Arts until coaches were finally able to convince him to attend classes at Booker T. his senior year. “It was over $1,000. I told my dad there had to have been something in his brain saying this is going to make him and me money in the future.”
Thomas, a fan of beatmakers Timbaland, Louis V and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, said he's been trying to sell his own beats to musicians now for the last couple years. This past year, he finally found someone who was interested. It was local artist Lil Dred, the 20-year old son and rapper of former UM cornerback Nate Brooks. Since its release in October, their song “No Shone Remix” has been played more than 245,000 times on SoundCloud.
Thomas, who has produced other popular tracks titled ‘Thottie,’ ‘She Weak,’ and ‘Overtime,’ said he’s performed on some of his own tracks in clubs, parties and other places dozens of times. He said he’s split the money he makes off what he produces and performs "50-50" with his mother, Stefanie Jones, a school director a local day care.
“As a singer he’s more like a Drake type -- singing but with a rap feel,” said Booker T. Washington offensive coordinator Tim Harris Jr. “When it comes to instruments and music engineering, I think UM is ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in those fields. With his contacts in the music industry here in the city of Miami, that’s why it’s always been UM for Chad. He told me he had been checking UM out since he went to New World. Football wise, Chad knows he can play at any school he wants to. But music is so important to him.”
Said Thomas: "It's always been in my mind to go to school there. Football is my not for long. I can go down with a knee injury tomorrow, but I know I’ll always be able to move my fingers and play an instrument, click a mouse."
Thomas, who maintains a 3.3 grade point average and scored an 18 on the ACT exam (well within the guidelines to qualify for UM), said he didn’t begin playing football until he was 12 at Gwen Cherry Park because when he was young he had asthma and a heart murmur. Thomas said he had to convince his parents to let him play.
Now an Under-Armour All-American and tabbed as the third-best defensive end in the country by 247Sports, Thomas says he has so much passion and intensity for football he usually cries before games.
With the Hurricanes in dire need of help along the defensive line, Booker T.’s coaches -– who saw Thomas rack up 71 tackles and eight sacks this past season -- believe Thomas has the size and maturity to help UM as soon as he walks through the doors in Coral Gables come June.
“People around the country talk about the pride we have here in high school and optimist [football],” said Thomas, who said he’s had a green 1998 Ford Mustang parked in his mother’s drive way waiting to take him to college since last year.
“I know there’s a lot players who have that same pride at UM, but they’ve just got to put it all together and play like a team like back in the 80s. We’ve got to bring that love, that passion for the game, and fight to make each other better every day. And I believe we will.”
A shorter version of this story will appear in Wednesday's editions of The Miami Herald