With his first field goal in Saturday night’s FCS playoff game at McNeese State, Thomas will set school and Ohio Valley Conference records in the speciality, breaking the marks set by Gavin Hallford in 2007.
Thomas has 22 field goals in 29 attempts this season, which ranks second nationally in field goals per game. Hallford was 22 of 29 in his record-setting season.
Thomas said the former All-American, now a JSU assistant strength coach, has been there for him every step of the way.
“He’s been supportive throughout the whole year,” Thomas said. “He tries to challenge me as much as possible to try to break the record.”
The year Hallford kicked his 22 field goals, it was more to salvage drives for an offense that had trouble getting the necessary yards to move the chains and finding the end zone. A lot of times they were too close to punt and there were trust issues in getting the yards to gain.
Thomas, on the other hand, has become another weapon in an offense that has set a school record for points. JSU head coach Bill Clark said he wouldn’t be afraid to send out Thomas from 55 yards and in — depending on wind conditions, of course. The senior has kicked two 50-yarders this season — including a school-record-tying 52-yarder against Eastern Kentucky — one of three FCS kickers with two field goals of 50-plus.
“He’s helped get us where we are; we wouldn’t be here without him,” Clark said. “Maybe a lot of times another team would take a delay or just let their punter pin them, (but) we’ve got a kicker we feel good about. It’s just such a peace of mind as a coach to feel great about sending that guy out there and know that the whole unit is going to work with consistency.”
Coming into the year, Thomas had attempted 21 field goals in his career; he was 10 of 19 a year ago. He actually credits the Gamecocks’ record-setting up-tempo offense for much of his scoring success. In addition to the 22 field goals, he has kicked 55 extra points, tying Chris Hobbs’ 1982 single-season school record. His 56 attempts is one shy of another single-season mark.
“They’re putting us in the opportunity a lot,” he said. “We’re always in a position to score, whether it’s touchdowns or field goals, and coach Clark has faith in our whole unit to go out there, so we’ve had the opportunity to put up numbers.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.