TCI spoke exclusively with Xavier Thomas following his signing ceremony this week
On Wednesday, five-star Clemson commitment Xavier Thomas came back home to Florence, S.C., to put the bow on his decorated high school career.
Celebrating his 18th birthday, Thomas returned to his old stomping grounds and signed his national letter of intent with the Tigers. He was surrounded by about 20 family members and friends during his signing ceremony at Wilson High in Florence.
Thomas, the top-ranked defensive end in the country, played his first three years at Wilson before transferring to IMG Academy (Fla.) for his final season in 2017.
“It’s been a great process,” Thomas told The Clemson Insider’s Katie Florio on location after signing. “Playing little league with all my boys who are here supporting me today, and growing up from middle school to high school, it’s been a great experience. It’s developed me even more at IMG. Coming back here and signing in front of my family and friends who have always been there for me is just a blessing.”
Thomas — the nation’s No. 1 defensive prospect according to all of the major recruiting services — committed to Clemson before the Orange & White spring game on April 8. He chose the Tigers over childhood favorite school South Carolina and dozens of other offers.
Reflecting on his decision to be a Tiger, Thomas cited the culture Dabo Swinney has created at Clemson.
“Just the great culture they have there,” he said. “Coach Swinney came there and built a great culture there, and you can trust the coaches there, all the players. Everyone there is family. I asked the players myself, and they tell me nothing changes with the program. So it’s just a blessing to be able to go to a school like that at the time of where they are now.”
Thomas (6-3, 270) is one of eight Clemson signees who will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio on Jan. 7. Shortly thereafter, Thomas will begin his Clemson career when he arrives on campus as an early enrollee next month.
As a midyear enrollee, Thomas will be able to participate in Clemson’s spring practice next year. He hopes to take advantage of the early start and stake his claim to early playing time as a true freshman.
“I’m looking forward to being able to manage my time well and work my way up the depth chart and start early in the spring,” Thomas said. “Just go there focused and show the world that I can ball at the next level.”
What is Thomas’s message to Clemson fans as he gets set to begin his college career?
“Just to get ready,” he said, “because I’m bringing it.”
Thomas posted 34 tackles and eight tackles for loss this past season at IMG Academy. In his first two years at Wilson, Thomas totaled 129 tackles, 34 tackles for loss and 17 sacks.
Thomas is a finalist for the National Defensive Player of the Year Award by the Army All-American Game, which will be announced on Jan. 5.