A Clemson football player opened up to one of his Tigers teammates about his journey over the past year and a half.
Xavier Thomas talked to Clemson sixth-year senior running back Darien Rencher about hitting rock bottom, nearly quitting football and how he’s found redemption during an interview on The Players Club ’21, a college football show hosted by Rencher.
“That was one tough year for me,” Thomas said…”I went home with a good mindset. I was gonna train and be ready and then, I got COVID and then I couldn’t train. Regardless, we had to come back with the team and things like that.”
From there, Thomas says that he couldn’t train for around a month or two because he was still having trouble breathing. Because of that, he gained around 20 pounds. After his bout COVID, with Thomas being mostly in the clear, he got strep throat, which put him even further in the hole.
Thomas, who was around 26 before having medical issues, was now upwards of 295-300 pounds.
“That was supposed to be my year,” he said. “I planned for my junior year to be my breakout year. I was just gonna go ahead and do what I do and head off to the league.”
His body had other plans.
“Just going through that was so disappointing for me because I had gained all the weight, Thomas added. “And then trying to play though that was just very depressing because I know that I gold myself to a very high standard and high expectations…It was a very tough year. A very mentally challenging year.”
Thomas has fought through that adversity and looks more like the player Tigers’ fans saw glimpses of during his freshman and sophomore seasons at Clemson.
But, through those tough times, he had to battle the expectations that come with being the No. 3 prospect in the country for his recruiting class. He wasn’t living up
“It was hard, man…A lot of people saying negative things about me,” Thomas said. “I was listening to all of that. I don’t think there was one thing I did not hear that I didn’t let affect me because I was even telling myself the same things. People that didn’t even know me was just talking bad about me, in regards to being a disappointment, being a bust…I was just letting it all affect me and I was letting it get to my mental.
“I was so disappointed in myself, it really got bad to a point where I was telling Dabo, I can’t even do it anymore last year like I was about to quit and give up on ball, give up on myself and just leave it all alone.”
Through all that, Thomas stayed the course, committed to himself on not only getting his weight down but returning to his true, dominant self.
“It’s really not an option anymore for me to not put in extra [work] and things like that,” he said. “It’s just a mindset. So, I really just had to get myself in the right mindset to be the player I wanted to be. As of [last week], I’m weighing 256.”
Now that he’s playing in his final season at Clemson, what’s the lasting impact that Thomas wants to leave behind?
“Just my inspiring story, bro,” Thomas told Rencher. “Anybody that goes through dark times and goes through a bad year…or even just a bad week, just that you can always bounce back from it no matter how hard it gets. Based on what I went through, I don’t see nobody that can get lower than I already was. I was literally rock-bottom, about to give up on football. No matter how hard you think it is or how hard times are, it’s really not that bad bro and you can come back from anything, as long as you keep the faith.”
In six games this season, Thomas has 4.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and nine quarterback pressures.