After testing positive for the coronavirus in late March or early April, it took Xavier Thomas about five months before he truly felt recovered from the effects of the virus.
The Clemson defensive end, who spoke to the media for the first time on Monday since getting the virus, said the Tigers were about two games into the season before the effects had fully gone away. It was a frustrating time for Thomas as he saw some of his teammates, who tested positive for the virus much later than him, already back on the field and helping the team.
“I know lot of teammates that really did not have any symptoms,” he said. “I was one of the first people to really get it back this spring. My symptoms were really bad. I had a really bad fever, and my body was really bad. I felt really weak and stuff like that. My symptoms were really bad and with the breathing and stuff… It was pretty tough to get over.”
Thomas was back at home in Florence, S.C., when he noticed he was not feeling well. He said he would have issues breathing and had tightening in his chest when he went up and down the stairs. That is when he began to have other symptoms for a about a week when the results of his test came back.
“It was very frustrating, but I had a lot of support behind me. They helped me stick through it and kept me positive,” the junior said. “It was a really big year coming in and I was at a really good point after spring ball and then everything just got sent back and everything fell down on me.
“It was real tough, but I had a lot of support behind me and I just stayed positive.”
Thomas did get well enough to return to Clemson this past summer where he started training with his teammates, again. However, he developed strep throat and it set his recovery time back.
“I realized I was struggling, and it would get real tight in my chest and everything would tighten down and I was really struggling to breath,” he said. “I had to talk to my coaches and things like that and tell them what I was going through.”
These days, Thomas says he is feeling much better and each day is better than the day before. He says he weighs 270 pounds, but he still wants to get his playing weight down to about 255 to 260 pounds.
He feels he is about halfway back to where he wants to be, but he is nowhere near where he can be. Since making a brief appearance against Miami on Oct. 10, Thomas’ number of snaps has increased each week and he is now back in the regular rotation at defensive end.
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive end has recorded a sack in each of the last two games. He will have to wait until the second half to get one in Saturday’s game at No. 4 Notre Dame, as he has to sit out the first half in South Bend due to being ejected in last week’s win over Boston College.
“It really started to come back around Week 1 or Week 2. I was training still and still doing my protocol. Then I was getting back into practice a little bit and doing some game day things and thinks like that,” Thomas said. “That is when I realized I was getting my wind back and getting back into football shape.
“Right now, I am just getting my legs back at lot. Just building my endurance back up in regards to playing football, because running and doing conditioning is a lot different than actually playing football.”
Thomas felt all along he would get back in shape enough to play this season, but it was frustrating having so many setbacks every time he worked his way back.
“I knew I would get back hundred percent regardless, but it was just the timing of it,” he said. “It was very frustrating at first because I was at a really good point after spring ball and then dealing with the COVID stuff just set me back a lot. That was real frustrating at first, but it has definitely grown me up a lot mentally.
“I am actually feeling a lot better,” he continued. “It is really a week-to-week thing. I am feeling better each week and getting better each week.”
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