Dymonte Thomas had professional scouts at his games as early as his freshman year. Baseball scouts. The 6-1, 190-pound four-star safety hit .390 during his three seasons and still harbors an intense belief he could have made it in that sport. But his focus is entirely on being the best Michigan football player he can be.
"I had such a passion for baseball and people always told me I was good enough to play in college and maybe professionally, but it became more of a backup the better I got at football," he said Tuesday inside Schembechler Hall.
Thomas is one of six early enrollees, and he hopes that arriving for a full winter conditioning and spring ball will enable him to get on the field early next season. He also has to perfect his craft at safety after spending the majority of his high-school career closer to the line of scrimmage at linebacker and defensive end.
"There was one game where he actually played along the defensive line, at linebacker, at cornerback and at safety all within four quarters," Marlington coach Ed Miley said.
"He's so physical; I've seen a lot of fast kids and good athletes but never seen anyone as physical as Dymonte. He's relentless to the football, and he doesn't miss tackles. He hits you and you fall backwards. He's used to playing in the box, used to having to navigate through blockers to get to the ball carrier so that will come naturally to him when he moves to safety."
In four seasons a starter for the Dukes, Thomas recorded 360 tackles, including nine sacks, picked off four passes and recovered four fumbles. He also rushed for 4,587 yards on 573 carries (8.0-yard average), scoring 56 touchdowns.
In his final high school game, Thomas had only 72 yards on 22 carries (3.8 yards per carry) in a 38-0 playoff loss to Poland Seminary. However, he probably shouldn't have played; he battled through a bad ankle.
"Here we are getting thumped, not the way he deserved to go out, and late in the game our opponent breaks through the line and the kid is gone for a long touchdown, but there's Dymonte going full speed to chase him down and stop him from scoring," Miley said. "That's the kind of kid he is - he will give you everything he has for four quarters.
"But as good as this kid is on the football field, the thing that stands out to me is his character off the field. My wife and I were at the All-American Bowl and we're walking around and see a special needs kid in a wheelchair just beaming with excitement because he has a signed cleat from a player. We look down and it's Dymonte's signature.
"He's just such an unselfish kid. I joke that there's no such thing as strangers in his life because he takes time for everyone."
Thomas is a terrific fit for Michigan because of that attitude, and because he projects to be a high-impact player on the field too, potentially as early as 2013.
"If you want to play as a freshman - I know [Jordan] Kovacs has graduated but there are a lot of great players here - I knew I needed to go through the weight program and prove to the staff how hard I'll work, and begin earning their trust," he said. "And then go through spring and learn the defense, and work with them on my technique, and just show them that I can make plays.
"I think if I do those things, then come camp next summer they'll already have confidence in me and that will give me a really good chance."