It took a little while, but Blue Springs (Mo.) South defensive end Derrion Thomas is starting to make a splash as a Division I prospect. For the longest time, Thomas thought he would be making a splash as a swimming recruit.
While Thomas' late father, Derrick Thomas, starred as a Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, Derrion was forced to take a different path because he suffered from asthma. Doctors recommended swimming as an avenue to strengthen his lungs.
"I swam because of my asthma, plus I really didn't like football," Thomas said. "It was my dad's thing. It wasn't something that I really liked. I wasn't really big on all the hitting and contact. Swimming was my focus. I kept playing football kind of as an afterthought."
While he tinkered with football, playing junior varsity in high school, he concentrated on swimming. After his junior season, he won the state championship in the 50 meters and focused on qualifying for the 2008 Olympic Games. But he wasn't able to reach a qualifying mark and decided to give football a real try.
"Football is something I really love now," said Thomas, who is 6 feet 3 and 200 pounds. "I'd love to get a shot to both swim and play football in college, but it's looking more and more like football might be where I get a chance to go to college in."
That's because as a senior, nobody had as dominating a season on defense in Missouri as Thomas. He recorded 15 sacks and guided his team to the Class 6A state championship game. Against favored Rockhurst in the state semifinals, Thomas had four sacks and was in the face of ballyhooed Illinois-bound quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase all game long.
"I've faced a lot of really good defensive players, but the way Derrion Thomas played in that game was something else," Scheelhaase said. "If he's not a highly recruited kid, then I don't know what one is."
Thomas said Alabama, UCLA and Missouri are the schools that have been in contact with him the most. With his father's ties to the Crimson Tide, Thomas said it would be exciting to entertain an offer from Nick Saban.
"I'm supposed to go down there for a visit now that the season is over," Thomas said. "I talk with Coach Williams [tight ends coach Bobby Williams] almost every week. He's a great guy.
"I don't know when I'm going to go for the visit because we just ended our season. I go down there on a regular basis – twice a year. I go down to see some old friends of my dad's. It would be pretty hard to turn down a chance to play there if they offered me."
UCLA coaches stay in contact with Williams every few weeks on the phone, and Missouri's interest has just started to heat up. He plays on the same team as Tigers quarterback commitment Blaine Dalton.
Thomas said that a few years ago, he never would have envisioned himself playing football. Now, he plans to do everything he can to live up to the reputation his father built.
"It has its ups and downs," Thomas said. "There are a lot of people that expect a lot out of you since you're the son of a legend like my father. Many times I don't want to be compared to him. But in the same sense, I want to strive and do everything I can to make him happy and live up to the great things he did."
BIG WEEK FOR APPLETON
After East St. Louis (Ill.) High captured the state title this past Saturday, four-star wide receiver Kraig Appleton finally went on the record in terms of his recruitment.
"I am really just looking at Illinois," he said. "I might take some other visits, but probably not. It's Illinois. I like the coaching staff, To play with Terry Hawthorne and Tommie Hopkins would be special. We can win something big. Illinois is the school I am really comfortable with and where I will go."
Appleton took official visits to Wisconsin and Texas Tech, and had been linked with Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Vanderbilt and Arkansas.
NOT SO FAST
Monday, Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College coach Rion Rhoades said star defensive end Thatcher Starling had committed to Arizona. But Starling, a three-star prospect, said he hadn't officially made his decision.
"They're definitely in the lead, but I have not committed to Arizona yet," Starling said. "I have to take a couple more visits. I'm going to Louisiana-Monroe this weekend and then Western Michigan in two weeks. I was also talking to UAB earlier, and I'm going to call and see if they're still interested. I might still have a few more schools that are showing interest."
• The list of suitors for star 2010 linebacker Corey Nelson of Dallas Skyline has grown even longer. Nelson (6-0/210) recently added an offer from LSU and is receiving as much early attention as any prospect in the 2010 class nationally. He has an offer list that already consists of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Oregon and Florida.
• Three-star defensive lineman Anthony Rogers of North Little Rock (Ark.) High withdrew his commitment to Mississippi State and now is headed to Oklahoma State. Rogers said his decision came about because of the coaching change at Mississippi State. He also held offers from Baylor, Ole Miss and Tulsa.
• Miami scored a major commitment for the class of 2010 when Miami Northwestern defensive tackle Todd Chandler announced he was heading to Coral Gables. Chandler (6-1/290) already had offers from, among others, North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State and Florida. He is on the Rivals250 to Watch list for 2010. As a sophomore, he had 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
• Sophomore sensation running back De'Anthony Thomas had 128 yards and three touchdowns in Los Angeles Crenshaw's 42-6 victory last Thursday over Wilmington (Calif.) Banning. Known as the "Black Mamba," Thomas is building a reputation as one of the top players in California even though he's just a sophomore.