Versatility, attitude get Thomas into MSU lineup

BY foxsports • September 20, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Lawrence Thomas calls himself a "child of God" and a "momma's boy," and does so with a smile.

Thomas is as sure of those claims as he was of choosing Michigan State -- which was the only school the state's top high school senior, out of the Detroit Renaissance, visited in 2010.

What's up for debate is what position Thomas should play.

The 6-foot-3, 283-pound redshirt freshman began his college career at linebacker but was moved to defensive end during preseason practices.

Two weeks ago, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio decided to put Thomas at fullback and tight end on offense.

"He was a tremendous defensive player in high school," Dantonio said. "He also was an outstanding offensive player. But because of his injuries, because of the depth we have at defensive end right now, he's not been able to get on the field as regularly as we'd want him to.

"I think he's got a lot of skills, so I just think we need to play guys, get them on the field and get them game experience. Where they play in the end as their career unfolds is really how they fit into the scheme of things.

"He could play defense on Saturday. He could play in offense on Saturday. I want to make sure we're taking advantage of our players' skills."

Dantonio expects Thomas to eventually become a fixture at defensive end, where William Gholston, a second-team All-Big Ten pick last year as a sophomore, is groomimg him.

"Me and Will were friends even before college," Thomas said. "And he's taken me under his wing here by showing me extra drills, studying with me and doing whatever he can to help me."

What does Thomas enjoy doing most on a football field?

"I'm a pretty physical dude," he said. "I love to put my opponent on his back. Then I know I did my job. Whether I'm doing that with a bull rush or a block, that's what I like best.

"Defense is where my heart is at, but I'm comfortable either side of the ball. Coach Dantonio said he wants to get me on the field as much as possible, and I love it on offense."

Thomas said he will eventually split practice time "50-50," but now spends more time on offense to "catch up" with the plays, terminology and technique.

Although Dantonio still sees Thomas playing defense in the years to come, he's not listed on the three-deep at either end position. He shares the backup fullback spot with Trevon Pendleton behind starter Niko Palazeti.

Starting ends Gholston and Marcus Rush are underclassmen standouts, and those playing behind them are non-seniors, too. Unless Gholston jumps to the NFL after this season, nothing is opening up there.

Palazeti, a sophomore, just received the starting-fullback nod. He's a solid player but doesn't have the position lock the ends hold.

With multi-talented junior Dion Sims starting at tight end, fullback looks to be the most likely spot for "L.T.," as teammates call him, to make his mark. He caught a seven-yard pass against Central Michigan and a 10-yarder against Notre Dame.

He's a remarkable athlete for his size, even had a 76-yard punt in high school.

Dantonio said, "He goes between 280 and 300 -- depends on how he's eating." L.T. is listed at 295 pounds.

"I just weighed in at 283," Thomas said with a chuckle. "I don't know where this 295 comes from."

His progress was slowed last year by a season-ending shoulder injury suffered in preseason camp.

"I'm a child of God," said Thomas. "Of course, it was frustrating. But I talked to God and did not let it stress me out."

Thomas said he attended a football camp at Ohio State but made his only official visit to Michigan State.

"The coaches are honest here and made me feel at home," Thomas said. "And I'm a Momma's boy, and didn't want to leave her behind by going far away.

"She's very proud of seeing me on a college football field, and I want to show my little brother what hard work can do. Alante is 13, and already winning MVP trophies in Little League football."

Players who receive as much attention as Thomas did in high school tend to focus more on themselves.

His attitude is refreshing. It revolves around family, faith and teammates.

Rather than worrying about finding his niche, Thomas is more concerned about learning the offense in order to help his team.