Earned Not Given: Terry Thomas goes from walk-on to scholarship player

Published 1:05 pm Monday, April 17, 2023

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During Troy’s annual T-Day game on April 15, it was announced that walk-on sophomore linebacker Terry Thomas was being presented with a full-ride scholarship.

Thomas is the next in a long line of Trojan defenders that have gone from walk-on to scholarship athlete and many of those have not only become starters but also gone on to have All-Sun Belt caliber careers. Those names include the likes of Carlton Martial, Craig Slocum Jr. and Hunter Reese.

“He’s a tremendous guy in the locker room for the culture of our program,” Troy Coach Jon Sumrall said of Thomas. “He’s ridiculously hard working and a very selfless and humble on top of being a really quality football player. He also does good in the classroom.”

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As a freshman walk-on, Thomas stepped in at starting inside linebacker early in the 2022 season when Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year – and fellow former walk-on – went down with an injury. Thomas recorded eight tackles against Appalachian State and had five tackles and one tackle-for-loss in Troy’s come-from-behind win over ULM. For the season, the Childersburg native netted 24 tackles, one-tackle-for-loss and an interception.

Sumrall emphasized that the honor of receiving a scholarship was earned and not given to Thomas.

“Last year when Carlton got dinged up a little bit, Terry was the one that stepped up and started in the App State and ULM games,” Sumrall said. “The legacy here of being a walk-on and then becoming a real big-time bonafide player is real. I think you can see that by the history of the program and I’m really happy for Terry. We did not give him a scholarship, he earned it.”

The announcement was made during halftime of T-Day when a special video from Martial and Slocum – who are training for the NFL Draft currently – revealed the decision as teammates swarmed Thomas on the sideline.

“When I was watching it I was kind of wondering,” Thomas said with a smile. “Carlton talking about being a walk-on and then Craig talking about being a walk-on, it kind of gave me the impression that somebody was getting a scholarship. You always get your mind running and thinking about it.

“It was a joy, it’s always a joy to get something that you worked for but it’s even more of a joy when you do it in front of your guys, the people you work with and that see you put in the work every day. For them to get excited for you and tell you that you earned it brings it all to fruition.”

Thomas said the feeling he got from earning the scholarship was difficult to describe.

“When you work hard and put in (so much) to achieve something it means so much,” he said. “That’s every kids dream to earn a scholarship to play ball at a DI level. Words cannot really describe it, it’ just such a blessing. It’s surreal right now, I can’t even think about it honestly. I almost don’t know where I’m at right now.”