In seeing the advantages of recruiting players to TCU as a Big 12 program, Frogs head coach Gary Patterson remarked that is was important to keep top players from the recruiting hotbed of Dallas-Ft. Worth close to home; building a fence around the metroplex so to speak.
The Frogs have seen success in this recruiting plan the last two recruiting cycles and they're off to a great start for the 2015 class. On Sunday, the Frogs landed one of the top players not only in the DFW area and Texas, they landed a player literally five minutes down the road; Ft. Worth Southwest linebacker Semaj Thomas.
Thomas was one of several 2015 prospects who attended TCU's junior day last Sunday. Like others, Thomas says the interaction with the coaches and the "family feel" stood out on his visit.
"What I liked about the junior day was the campus; it was nice and I liked the facilities," Thomas said. "The coaches were real friendly and nice to me; it felt like a family oriented place. Coach P was real nice; everyone out there was real nice."
For Thomas, his commitment to TCU was the culmination of a dream he's had since his freshman year at Southwest. In fact, it took Thomas a few moments to believe that he had been given the opportunity to play for TCU when they offered.
"I was real excited, I told them that it was a dream come true me because I've wanted to go there since my freshman year," Thomas said. "It was exciting. I was nervous at first; I couldn't believe it was happening."
It didn't take long for Thomas to accept the offer, becoming the third 2015 prospect to commit to the Frogs that day. Thomas has been on the Frogs' radar for over two years so once he made it known that he wanted to be a Frog, the coaches were equally excited.
"They were all happy, they were all excited for me," Thomas said of the TCU coaches' reaction. "They noticed me when I came down to the camps and Coach Trammell talked to them about me."
The Frogs' graduation rate and proximity to home were two more factors that made TCU a dream school for Thomas.
"What stood out to me was the education program," Thomas said. "When I researched their school I found out that they graduate 91% of their student-athletes. On top of that, it's close to home and a lot of my family members know a lot of people from TCU. My coaching staff at Southwest knows a lot of people up there too."
Thomas has been a force for the Raiders' defense since his freshman season when he played defensive end. He continued to play defensive end as a sophomore earning district honors but as a junior in 2013 he made the switch to linebacker. At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds with 4.6 speed, Thomas was a playmaking machine earning first team All-District honors.
The big linebacker feels his size, speed and familiarity with TCU's defense will help make him a successful player in Patterson's defense.
"My strengths are me being real fast and just going when the ball is hiked," he said. "I can fit in real good with their defense because we run it down here. The building blocks they have up at TCU are what I've learned down here at Southwest."
While much of the talk in the off-season has surrounded changes on TCU's offense, it's still a fact that the Frogs produce highly ranked defenses every year under Patterson. In two years in the Big 12, the Frogs have finished in the top two in total defense both seasons.
Thomas admits Patterson's background as a defensive-minded coach and his history of developing defensive players also factored into his decision.
"It was very important; I really liked that about Coach P and it was another thing that got me looking at TCU because he's a defensive guy," Thomas said. "He sends a lot of his defensive players to the NFL."
With his commitment now out of the way, Thomas says a weight has been lifted off his shoulders. Now his focus is to help his Southwest teammates have a winning season and hope they can fulfill their own dreams. After all, he's living his.
"It's nice, I feel wonderful about it and I'm thankful that I got the opportunity to go up there and play for them," he said of his decision. "Like I said, it's a dream come true."