Palmdale (Calif.) Highland tight end Christian Thomas is being recruited by a collection of elite football programs, but he's in no hurry to make a selection. He's enjoying the process.
"I've been having a great time talking to different coaches and scouts," Thomas said. "Whenever you come from where I come from, and you get exposure like this and people want to talk to you and get to know you, it's a positive."
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound junior recently picked up offers from Oregon and LSU and expects ones from Tennessee and Oklahoma to arrive soon. Though over a dozen schools have garnered his attention, Thomas is highly interested in USC, Cal and LSU.
The four-star recruit and No. 2 tight end in the nation by Rivals.com said he loves "everything" about the Trojans.
"I talked to Pete Carroll last night, and we had a long conversation," Thomas said. "He was just telling me to keep my mind on the right path and with whatever I do, do it to the best of my ability. It was encouraging stuff, and it made me listen to him."
Thomas took an unofficial visit to a Trojans' spring practice and came away enamored with the up-tempo atmosphere.
"It felt like it was a bowl game, the way they practice," he said. "Their whole mindset is about giving 100 percent. There're a lot of people on their depth chart, and if you want to get higher you need to show your coach you can play at this level. At USC, you've got to have talent to be a starter."
Despite his love of USC, Thomas said his interest in scouting out all available options is preventing him from giving the Trojans his commitment.
"I'm just trying to make sure I'm making the right choice," he said. "It's not every day you get the opportunity to pick any college you want. There are a lot of colleges that want me that I'm very interested in. I've got to make sure I do my research."
Cal does have an advantage over USC in one department: Thomas' father is an alumnus.
"That's a little edge for them," Thomas said. "He's been telling me a lot about Cal and helping me, but it's been awhile since he went to college so it has probably changed a lot. He's just told me it's my choice and hopefully I make the best of it."
Thomas has been following LSU "ever since they had JaMarcus Russell playing there as a sophomore" and is intrigued by the Tigers' offense.
"Man, their offense is just ridiculous," he said. "I've been watching LSU for a while and I like the way they play their receivers."
Thomas hasn't decided on the five schools he will take official visits to this fall, but he's close.
"I know for sure I want to go to USC, LSU, Cal and probably UCLA," he said. "I haven't made the decision on UCLA yet, but those are the three main ones I want to go to."
One team that hasn't showed as much interest as he'd like is Florida. He said likes the Gators a lot, but they haven't shown any interest in him.
"I liked the way Cornelius Ingram used to play for them," Thomas said. "He played like a wide receiver but he was a tight end. The way that they put him, that's how I would want to play. And he just got drafted to the Philadelphia Eagles. They haven't sent me anything, though."
A program's ability to produce NFL-quality tight ends will be a big factor in Thomas' decision. He listed USC, UCLA, Washington and Miami as a few schools that he thinks have done so consistently.
"I wouldn't want to go to a team where they just run and you're a blocking tight end," Thomas said. "They've got to have at least a couple people that went to the NFL from their college, so I can feel like I can do it too."
Thomas has no qualms with playing far away from home, and said all he's looking for is a place where he can make an impact. Before the recruiting process began, Thomas always thought he would go to a Florida school.
"I'm from the West Coast, but the colleges I wanted to go to was down south, you know, like Florida State and Miami," he said. "I was always attracted to schools like that, but ever since I started getting recruited, none of them have been trying to pick me up. I guess I'm going to be a Westside kid."
Thomas said he would likely wait until the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, in January. He will most likely wait until then to declare his decision.
"Maybe you've got to catch me a little later than that, I don't know," he said. "It'd be nice to do it on national television."