At the start of fall camp before last season Xavier Thomas found himself in a difficult spot both mentally and physically after a challenging summer in the midst of the pandemic.
The Clemson defensive end jumped up to almost 300-pounds after a tough bout with COVID-19 and strep throat that caused him to put on an extra 30-pounds and only play in seven games.
But Thomas is ready to reach his full potential in his senior season.
“I feel great and I’m really proud of myself in regard to all the things I’ve been going through in the last couple years,” Thomas said after Thursdays scrimmage at Memorial Stadium. “I’ve been fighting through adversity and responding the right way and doing what I’ve know I’m capable of forever.”
Last season he only recorded 11 tackles, four tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in seven games and just one start.
2020 proved difficult for many and it was particularly challenging for Thomas as he missed out on reaching his full potential and battled with his increased weight.
“Really just my weight being as heavy as I was, I was 30-pounds heavier than I am right now,” Thomas said. “I was feeling really bad and of course I could go out there and play ball but for what I’m capable of I just couldn’t go out there and do it. I really wanted to get that weight off and play fast basically just do what I’m capable of.”
Now Thomas is down to 265-pounds and off to a great start in fall camp as the Tigers’ opener with Georgia looms on Sept. 4 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables highlighted Thomas’ consistency entering the third week of fall camp.
“He had a really good first couple of weeks, going on the third week here it’s more of the same,” Venables said. “He showed up and has been really explosive, playing fast, playing physical and playing to the scheme. And he’s been consistent, he’s been disruptive and has experience and we have multiple starters there but he’s made the most of his opportunities for sure.”
The key to his growth in the offseason was fighting off the urge to eat sweets and focusing on daily growth through prayer and conversations with his family and teammates.
“It was very challenging mentally, I felt down on myself and disappointed in myself,” Thomas said. “But I have fought through it and talked to my family and teammates and just prayed a lot and grinded my way out of it day-by-day building brick-by-brick instead of being impatient.”