Alliance (Ohio) Marlington safety Dymonte Thomas was one of the first 2013 prospects to commit to Michigan, joining quarterback Shane Morris in the class Sept. 11, 2011. He was also one of 12 U-M pledges to play in national all-star games over the course of the past week, participating in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Though talent in Northeast Ohio is strong, it was nowhere near what Thomas faced on Saturday, and he relished the opportunity to test himself against the best.
"It was a great experience, I had a great time," he said. "I had fun, and it was nice coming out here to compete against some of the top athletes in the world."
The 6-2, 190-pound Thomas played mostly linebacker and running back for Marlington throughout his high school career, but the Army Bowl gave him the opportunity to move back to safety, where he'll play at Michigan. Though the week started slowly for him, he adjusted to the move and rounded into form by the end of the week.
That culminated in a two-tackle performance for the East team Saturday afternoon, and though his individual numbers don't pop off the page, it's more impressive when taking into account that the East's leading tackler had only four total stops. The East defense also held the opposing offense to a single touchdown, and a combined 7/20 output through the air.
Immediately after the game, Thomas heard from Michigan coach Greg Mattison. The Wolverines' defensive coordinator (and Thomas' area recruiter) reached out to his star pledge to offer congratulations on the win. He even said that U-M could have used Thomas a few days earlier in the Outback Bowl.
"I got off the phone with Coach Mattison," Thomas explained. "He watched [the game], and he was talking to me about it and my performance. He asked how I felt about the game and everything, so it was good. He just said he wished he'd had me for the bowl game."
Mattison won't have to wait much longer to have Thomas in his arsenal. The four-star heads up to Michigan this week to enroll at U-M and start his career as a Wolverine.
"I can't wait, I think I'm going up there Wednesday," Thomas explained. "It's going to be a great time. I'm rooming with Ross [Douglas, this semester] and then probably Shane [Morris] when Shane gets up there in the summer."
When he arrives in Ann Arbor, he will have a chance to reconnect with his player host from his recent official visit to Michigan. Junior cornerback Courtney Avery started several games early in his career, and has been a three-year contributor on the field. Thomas can look up to him in his own quest to see the field - and make an impact - early in his Michigan career.
Just as important for Thomas, however, is Avery's role as a mentor off the field. That was never more apparent than on a walk through Schembechler Hall, and spotting another honor that Avery has received during his Michigan career.
"He's a great kid," Thomas said. "It was awful nice walking outside, and I saw on the wall that he was an Academic All-American too, which is what I want to be. It was really nice to have a role model like that showing me around."
He also continued to build his bond with the rest of the 2013 class of commits, five of whom will be joining him as early enrollees this week. The remainder of the commits will join them in June, and Michigan's Team 134 recruiting class will have a chance to write their own legacy.
Thomas is ready to put in the work at Michigan to become an All-American at the college level. In just a matter of days, however, he has gone from an All-America high school player to just another freshman in Ann Arbor.