Jordan Thomas and Northwestern football seemed like a perfect match.
Thomas’ advanced understanding of the game earned him a starting cornerback spot as a freshman on an 11-1 Klein Collins (Texas) High team. He plans to pursue a petroleum engineering career when football is over because he grew up around it and genuinely enjoys math and science.
Thomas spent more than a year committed to Northwestern, one of the country’s most prestigious universities, but a mid-January visit to Oklahoma and a desire to stay closer to home caused the 6-foot-1, 180-pound cornerback to flip to the Sooners.
“I didn’t know Oklahoma had such an extensive engineering program,” Thomas said. “It was a huge thing for me, but the biggest factor was really being close to home. My family will be able to come to a lot more games, rather than just a game every year or so.”
Thomas’ father has been in the oil and gas business for years and currently works for Chevron. The family has been in Klein, a Houston suburb, since Thomas was in the sixth grade.
As an eighth grader, Thomas and his teammates attended Klein Collins football games and dream of one day donning the varsity squad’s gold helmet; the freshman and junior varsity teams wear blue helmets.
But even though he was a star throughout middle school, Thomas didn’t expect to earn that gold helmet quite as quickly as he did.
“One day we were doing our summer workouts and I was pulled out of the freshman summer camp,” Thomas said. “They told me, ‘Coach wants you working out with the older guys.’”
He played with the varsity team in 7-on-7 competitions, but figured he’d go back to the freshman team in the fall.
Thomas was surprised when that didn’t happen. Klein Collins coach Drew Svoboda said Thomas is the only freshman he’s ever pulled up to varsity in his entire coaching career.
Svoboda said he’s seen lots of freshmen who were probably physically capable of playing against varsity competition, but what set Thomas apart was his intelligence.
“He was only 14 years old,” Svoboda said. “But we knew ability-wise he could do it and intellectually he could handle it. We needed to solidify that corner spot, and he filled that need for the team.”
Thomas ended up playing virtually every non-lineman position on both offense and defense — including quarterback — for Klein Collins throughout his prep career.
“I prefer defense,” Thomas said. “I feel like it’s a lot more exciting and a lot more challenging. I feel like if you play defense, you can play any other position.
“Because I’ve played so many positions, I learned the game from every angle.”
When Thomas arrives in Norman this summer, he’ll join a very talented — but also inexperienced — defensive backfield, which could create an opportunity to earn immediate playing time.
Only three of the scholarship defensive backs on Oklahoma’s 2014 roster are upperclassmen, and the Sooners need to replace all-conference cornerback Aaron Colvin next season.
Stanvon Taylor and Dakota Austin received some playing time as true freshmen cornerbacks late last season, and junior Cortez Johnson will also be a candidate to fill Colvin’s spot.
But Thomas’ ability to learn fast will surely serve him well.
“I’m gonna go out there and play my heart out,” Thomas said. “I’ll do everything I can to get on the field.”