Cam Thomas was all smiles after the win over Georgia Tech.
Nov. 19, 2008
By Aisha Johnson
UNC Athletic Communications
Redshirt junior Cam Thomas achieved many accomplishments prior to coming to North Carolina, but his work did not stop once he reached Chapel Hill. He has won a battle against his weight and improved his overall understanding of the game to become a better player.
In the Tar Heels' last home game against Georgia Tech, Thomas played his best game yet, according to head coach Butch Davis. "Cam Thomas played extraordinarily well." Though statistics would not tell it - Thomas and the defensive line were not credited "for an awful lot of tackles" - Davis heralded the line as the unsung heroes of the Georgia Tech game. "(Thomas) was very instrumental on two fourth down stops, he just did a great job of getting good penetration," said Davis.
Thomas credits his breakout to working with associate head coach John Blake. "I have just been following what Coach Blake tells us about reading the offense and what cues to read," said Thomas. "Before coming here, I really didn't know much about football. I just got in my stance and knew what I had to do." Redshirting his freshman year gave him time to learn about the entire game.
Possibly the toughest opponent for Thomas to beat was his weight. This summer he worked with the coaches and staff on getting his weight down by learning to eat healthier. "I love to eat, I'm a big country boy, especially when I go home my mom cooks a good ole meal. Man, my mouth is watering right now!"
Thomas even encouraged his mom to cook healthier meals at home, "but its mom, what can you do?" At 6-foot-3, 330 pounds, Thomas is about 30 pounds lighter than when first came to Chapel Hill. Shedding the pounds has helped his game by making him faster, more agile and less winded during the game.
"The aspect of my game that has improved the most is me running to the ball a little more. I'm not going to say that I was lazy, but my weight slowed me down," noted Thomas.
But Thomas is quick to point out that he is not the only defensive lineman to show improvement this season. "I would say as a group, not just one individual, we all as a whole have improved. We all have our different style of play: some guys speed, some power, some finesse, some technique." As a group, they have helped each other to improve by "competing, seeing who is getting off the ball quicker, or saying `who is going to make this play' and talking junk to each other in practice."
Thomas and the defensive line also have worked to improve their game by stopping the run. "The past couple of games we have been starting to improve on stopping the run." Going in to the Georgia Tech game Thomas knew it would be hard to stop the run because of the two-back option. In practice, they worked on stopping the run by "going hard at it and focusing on the task at hand."
"Stopping the run opens up everything. If we can stop the run and get them to pass to our guys in the backfield." Thomas is confident with his secondary, noting that North Carolina's defense leads the nation in interceptions with 18 on the season.
For future games Thomas and the defense will continue to work on stopping the run. "If we can stop the run, half the battle is done on our end." But the fight is not over. With a couple games left on the schedule and another year to look forward to, Thomas has learned what it takes to succeed and stay healthy on and off the field.