Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Counting down the top Pitt football players of the last 40 years- No.33 Bryan Thomas

I will be counting down my own list of the top 50 Pitt football players since 1972.  I have spent time doing a lot of research and talking to a lot of people when formulating this list, but ultimately it is MY opinion.  The great thing about lists like this is that people will disagree, and feel free to, but just remember that there is no right answer so there's no need to go crazy if you do disagree.  I will post this same intro with all 50 bios because I know the one time I don't, people will complain about not knowing what criteria I used.  I will add at least one a day, maybe two.  

My criteria for selecting the order is as follows:

1.  Productivity.
2.  Talent.
3.  Place in program history.
4.  Only the player's careers while at Pitt are considered, not their NFL careers. 
5.  No current players.

33.  Bryan Thomas (1978-82)-  When Pitt fans talk about the best running backs in Panther history, it usually takes awhile to get to Thomas, and that's a shame because the "B.T. Express" as he was known, was an excellent college running back.

Thomas, who ran a notoriously slow 4.7 in the 40, was also tough, had great quickness and vision, and was considered an excellent blocker.  He played very little as a freshman, then hurt his knee in his second season, which led to a redshirt.  As a redshirt sophomore, he broke his ankle which cost him another season.

Finally healthy as a junior, Thomas barely played in the first two games, then started and gained 59 yards in the third game. At the end of the season, the final numbers showed that Thomas finally arrived as he led the team in both rushing yards and catches.  On the ground he ended up with 1,132 yards, 7 touchdowns, and a 5.2 avg.  He also added 46 catches for a very impressive 9.8 avg.  He also showed that he can come up big in the big games as he outperformed Herschel Walker in the Sugar Bowl with 129 yards rushing and 6 catches.  He was so exhausted near the end of the game that they had to drag him off the field, but then he returned a few plays later to throw the key block on Dan Marino's game winning touchdown pass to John Brown.

As a senior Thomas again led the Panthers in both rushing and catches, this time with 955 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 54 more catches.  The 100 catches in his final two seasons was even more impressive when you realize that Thomas never caught a pass as a running back in high school. He now has more catches than any running back in school history despite playing only two seasons.  

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