By Nico Gonzalez-Reed
Nico: What has been the most significant transition that you’ve made after leaving Gilman?
Thomas: In college, you may have a challenging curriculum and lots of work to do, but you have much more control of your time than you might have had in high school. Making sure to spend time wisely and productively has been the biggest transition that I have made after leaving Gilman. Also, because college gives you more free reign, you have to really learn to take the initiative when it comes to setting up meetings, taking care of your responsibilities, and making sure that you are on top of all of the small details that your parents or high school teachers used to help you with.
Nico: What lessons from Gilman did you take to Stanford both on and off of the field?
Thomas: Time management and staying ahead are two of the biggest ones. At Gilman, the course load accompanied by the fact that I was always playing a sport meant that I had to figure out ways to maximize the productivity of my time. Resultantly I learned that when I could, getting ahead would make my life so much easier and stress-free. Another one is being able to compartmentalize. On the football field and in life, you have to be able to move from play to play or event to event without worrying about what happened previously or what you have to do next. Gilman helped me realize that, and it has allowed me to keep my focus on the task at hand rather than something unrelated.
Nico: What has been your biggest academic challenge? What has been your biggest athletic challenge?
Thomas: Honestly, my biggest academic challenge at Stanford so far has been staying on top of due dates and other academic deadlines. In high school, most of your calendar is dictated to you , and teachers make sure that you turn your work in. College is much more about managing all of that yourself. Your professors are going to cover the syllabus once, and then it is really up to you to make sure that you stay on track with readings, papers, and other assignments.
My biggest athletic challenge has been honing in on the idea of “attention to detail.” The difference between high school and college football is the margin of error. The lack of technique you can get away with in high school will get exposed in college if you let it. Be it in the weight room, making sure to detail my form so that I get the work I need out of the exercise, to the field, where my hand placement, footwork, and eyes all have to be in unison for me to do my job effectively, attention to detail pays dividends, and it does not come overnight. It’s an ongoing process.
Nico: What was your biggest fear before arriving at Stanford?
Thomas: My biggest fear before arriving at Stanford was how I would stack up as a football player. I had already taken classes at Stanford as a high school sophomore, so I had confidence in my ability to compete academically from the start, but of course, I had never played college football before I arrived. There’s always a question of “will I be as good?” when you move up a level in anything, and that’s what I wondered when I got here. After a few weeks of fall camp practice, I started to realize that while the game is faster and more physical, it’s still just football. It’s the same football I had been playing for years. The confidence I got from the hours of work and practice I put in helped to lessen that fear, and when I performed in games, it made me even more confident.
Nico: What has been your favorite athletic experience at Stanford?
Thomas: There are two that stand out to me. The first being our comeback win against Oregon. We went into the half down 24-7 on the road with the crowd against us. The crazy thing about it all is that at no point during that game did any of us have any doubt that we would come back. One of our outside linebackers recovered a fumble and took it back 80 yards to start off the comeback, and we tied it 31-31, went into OT, and won 38-31. The entire crowd at Oregon was silent. That was the craziest athletic event I have ever been a part of.
The second one was the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. It was my first time playing in a bowl game, and it was a gritty defensive battle. Both offenses were struggling, so I knew that if we could just get the lead one time, our defense would finish the game. We took the lead on a crazy lateral/pass that ends up in the end zone and then our defense locked up for the rest of the game. I won Lineman of the Game, which was a surreal moment considering that the year before I was in High School beating McDonogh with my brothers. It’s amazing what can change in a year.
Nico: What do you major in and why?
Thomas: I’m still officially undecided, but I am leaning towards economics. I have a big interest in the large scale problems that face our society, like socioeconomic inequality, and I see the economy as being at the heart of fixing some of those issues. I also have a big interest in how technology can solve those same issues, so I’m going to incorporate some tech-related classes into my course load as well.
Nico: How does life in California compare to life in Maryland?
Thomas: The weather is better. WAY better. Since it’s sunny and 70+ a lot, you can go outside in basically anything you want. Plus there’s no humidity, so you don’t sweat bullets whenever you go out.
Additionally, I would say that Northern California, in particular, has a more leisurely feel than Maryland does, and I think it has something to do with the weather being so good most of the time. People enjoy walking, being outside, and soaking up the sun as opposed to how in Maryland a lot of the time people are rushing from place to place to avoid the elements.
I love both places, though. They’re really just different.
Nico: What do you miss about Gilman? (Teachers, experiences, games, etc.)
Thomas: I definitely miss how small and well-connected my class was. Even though Stanford is a smaller college compared to most, 1,000+ students is still a lot more than the 100+ guys I graduated with. I miss knowing everybody and hanging out in the senior room.
I miss the teachers as well. Some of my best learning experiences have come as result of the fact that Gilman hires people who are dedicated and invested in the success and lives of their students. Teachers like Mr. Hastings, Mr. Holly, Mr. Heubeck, Mr. Christian, and so many others have made lasting impacts on not only my academic skill-set but my perception of what learning is and should be. I cannot thank them enough for that.