Cory Thomas could barely contain his excitement as he prepared for the 2015 season.
The Mississippi State defensive tackle had redshirted his initial year on campus and was ready to return to game action.
“It felt really good not to have to watch from the sidelines as a juice boy,” Thomas said. “I’d rather be on the field making plays and getting the crowd excited. It’s a special feeling.”
Thomas saw action in eight games during his redshirt freshman season making three tackles including a sack and an interception. The 6-foot-5, 301-pounder recorded his first career stop against Northwestern State but regards his interception against Kentucky to be the moment he really felt like he had made an impact.
“You never know when that big play is going to come,” Thomas said. “All I did on that play was come off the line, stepped back two steps and the ball fell right in my hands. It was such a great thing knowing that my first really big play was an interception. I’ve always dreamed about my first big play and what it was going to be but to be honest, I never thought it would be an interception.”
Thomas returned the pick 12 yards before being brought down by a shoestring tackle. He would later sack N.C. State’s Jacoby Brissett in the Bulldogs’ Belk Bowl victory.
Although he would have preferred to play right away, Thomas now looks back on his redshirt year with pride. He used that time to work aspects of his skill set to become a more rounded defensive lineman.
“It helped me out a lot and I got better at different things,” Thomas said. “It made my overall game better. The biggest change was on my run stopping. In high school I was just a pass rusher so run stopping was something I needed to get better at.”
Thomas was one of the crown jewels of Dan Mullen‘s 2014 recruiting class. The Bessemer, Alabama native flipped his commitment from Tennessee on national signing day and has never looked back. Instead, he has focused on getting MSU back into the College Football Playoff conversation.
“I’ve been very happy and don’t regret (flipping) at all,” Thomas said. “This is a good place and we’re fixing to turn it around and get it headed in the right direction.”
Thomas will be even more of a factor for the Bulldogs next season with Chris Jones declaring for the NFL Draft a year early.