Jenks has another freshman who may be headed for greatness
BY MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Friday, October 26, 2012
10/26/12 at 4:58 AM
Related story: Young talent: A look at standout ninth-grade football players around the area.
Run through a short list of Jenks High football players who saw starting time as freshmen. One is struck by how accomplished they were.
Jerry Wisne was an offensive lineman on a state championship team in 1993 and went on to play at Notre Dame.
Jason Lohr was a dominating tackle on the Trojans' famed "Legion of Doom" defense in 1996 and signed with Nebraska, but injuries sabotaged his college career.
Tanner Shuck was the Tulsa World's high school player of the year in 2006 and played at Rice. Jake Alexander was All-Metro player of the year in 2009 and currently starts on the University of Tulsa's offensive line.
All four were part of at least one state championship team.
It's worth noting, because Jenks has another starting freshman. And head coach Allan Trimble said defensive lineman Tyler Thomas has the potential to eventually be mentioned in the same category.
The 6-foot, 285-pounder made his first start last Thursday and logged two unassisted tackles in the No. 1 Trojans' 52-3 win at Muskogee.
"I know it was a big honor," said Thomas, nicknamed "Big T" and "Sweet T" by his peers. "It felt like a big accomplishment. It made me feel like the coaches and the staff and the other players trust me to be out there."
The Trojans have trusted Thomas since the coaches decided after spring drills to elevate him to bolster a thin situation on the defensive line.
Thomas has been backing up all three line spots most of the season, and he intercepted a shovel pass in the loss to DeSoto, Texas. He took over full-time at tackle two weeks ago when Jacob Oakley injured his shoulder against Westmoore and likely will start Friday when the Trojans host Bixby for the schools' 77th meeting.
Starting ninth-graders aren't that rare, but Trimble said it takes an unusual level of physical and mental maturity for a 14- or 15-year-old to play against athletes two and three years older.
"It takes a pretty special kid in 6A because you're playing against some big, physical upperclassmen," Trimble said. "But he's a smart kid, he has the drive to get better and he's big enough and strong enough to play really well."
It's not a transition every freshman is ready to make, and coaches need to be careful about who they try.
"You don't want to put someone out there who's not ready," said Memorial coach Tony Daniels, who has freshman Trevor Boone starting at outside linebacker.
"You need to let the parents know what you're doing and see if they're OK with it," Daniels said. "I've had parents tell me they didn't want it, and others who said, 'Go ahead, just take care of my baby.' "
Victory Christian coach Brent Marley said it was almost a no-brainer to start freshman left-handed quarterback Keats Calhoon - even though OSSAA rules prevented Calhoon from working with the varsity last spring when he was still an eighth-grader.
"We had the opportunity to coach him in junior high and we knew right off the bat what kind of kid he was," Marley said. "He had the 'It' factor, whatever that is. He just made plays and made things happen."
A thin, 6-foot-2 1/2 by 160 pounds, Calhoon likely hasn't reached full maturity. But he's thrown for 1,975 yards and 17 touchdowns, leading the Conquerors to eight straight wins. Marley said Calhoon may be a better free safety and also is an outstanding basketball player. His father, Ed, is Victory's girls basketball coach.
"He's going to be a big kid. He has a very high ceiling, as far as his potential," Marley said.
Thomas' early arrival at Jenks could mean he's destined to play Division I football at a high level someday.
"I think it's a great sign," Trojans defensive line coach Landon Isham said. "He's a great kid. He's willing to work hard, and I can't remember being around anybody who has the opportunities he's going to have. You have to be a certain height and weight for the colleges to want you, but I think he has the potential to eventually get to that point."
Thomas' mother, Tammie Thomas, said the Jenks coaches made her feel comfortable about the move.
"I'm excited for (Tyler) him because he loves football, but I'm a mom, so I'm apprehensive about everything," she said. "The coaches said they were available for me if I wanted to talk about anything. They made me feel very comfortable."
Original Print Headline: Fantastic freshmen
Mike Brown 918-581-8390
Jenks freshman defensive lineman Tyler Thomas made his first start last week in a win over Muskogee. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World