Four-year starter Thomas a consistent force for Rams
Too short. Not fast enough. Would need a redshirt season.
When linebacker Octavius Thomas reported to Shepherd in August of 2013 from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina he was just a long shot to even make the team in his first season. Not many “true freshmen” are on the Rams’ roster and rarely does one ever make it as a starter.
Thomas did. Despite not measuring to the standard heights or weights generally accepted for linebackers.
He’s 5-foot-9 and weighs 218 pounds.
But as a freshman, Thomas was accorded freshman defensive player of the year in the Mountain East Conference. He was given second-team all-conference honors while being credited with 65 tackles (9.5 for lost yardage), getting four sacks, a fumble recovery and interception. Shepherd was the conference champion.
Then in 2014, Thomas did enough to open more eyes and move to the first-team all-conference list. He had another 65 tackles (again 9.5 for lost yardage), four more sacks and another fumble recovery and interception. The Rams finished with an 8-2 record.
Last season, Shepherd went through an unbeaten regular season with a 10-0 record before clipping Indiana, Slippery Rock and Grand Valley State along the Division II playoff trail.
With a 13-0 record, Shepherd played equally unbeaten Northwest Missouri State in the NCAA national championship game in Kansas City.
Thomas was credited with 70 tackles (8.5 for lost yardage), had two sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered a fumble.
He landed on the second-team all-conference unit.
In Thomas’ first two seasons as a starting linebacker the Rams led the nation in stopping the run, yielding fewer than 100 yards per game along the ground. Last year, they slipped only slightly and finished third in ground yardage yielded per game during the regular season.
Now as a senior, Thomas and fellow inside linebacker James Gupton are the most effective of the playmakers the Rams have on the defensive side of the ball.
A sure tackler, Thomas rarely gets blocked and doesn’t miss many ball carriers that reach past the four down linemen the Rams employ.
In Shepherdstown, Thomas has put Myrtle Beach on the map as much more than a tourist destination.
And when the season opens on Sept. 3 at home against West Virginia Wesleyan, Shepherd will attempt to win its third conference championship in his four years as a starter.
Too short? Hardly. Not fast enough? Not exactly. Need a redshirt season? No, Shepherd was the Mountain East Conference champion with him at inside linebacker as a freshman.
Octavius Thomas: probable first-team all-conference player as a senior.