For the two former Muscle Shoals and Northeast Mississippi Community College standouts, that’s saying something. They’ve been teammates since they were five years old playing midget football.
They aren’t separating by much, though. Stokes, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound tight end, signed a letter of intent to play football at LSU on Wednesday, while his buddy Thomason, sitting next to him at the front table in the grille at Cypress Lakes Golf Course, signed with Louisiana Tech.
“Until we got to junior college, we always played on the same side of the ball,” said Stokes, who played defensive end in high school but shifted to tight end at Northeast Mississippi. “It’ll be different.”
Thomason, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound middle linebacker, said they won’t be that far apart.
“It’s still the same state,” he said. “Its probably 2 or 21⁄2 hours away, still closer than home. But it’s going to be weird not seeing him all the time.”
For both players, starting their college careers at a community college paid big dividends.
Stokes was a mid-major Division I prospect after his senior season while Thomason only had an offer from the University of North Alabama. Two years later, Stokes is heading to Baton Rouge, La., as a member of one of the nation’s elite programs.
Thomason whittled down 17 offers to three – Troy, Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech. After visiting all three, he opted for Louisiana Tech.
Stokes picks LSU
Stokes grew up a fan of Mississippi State but ended up choosing LSU over Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss. Out of high school, he wasn’t sure how high his ceiling would be.
“I didn’t think about LSU; I thought it would be a Kentucky or something like that,” he said. “I had a good year and I guess with my body type and speed, people started coming after me.”
His first offer came from LSU. He committed to the Tigers and never considered going anywhere else.
“I liked the staff, I liked the system,” he said. “I fit in with what they do and they stayed on me hard. It’s a dream come true. Not a lot of people get this opportunity.”
Thomason to La. Tech
Thomason said his goal was to sign with a D-I program.
“That’s the way you always want it to go,” he said. “I just tried to work hard and put in the time and effort and it paid off.”
Thomason said the coaches at Louisiana Tech said he will be No. 1 on the depth chart going into spring training.
“You have to make a quick impression because you only have two years,” he said.
Thomason, who averaged 10.4 tackles per game this season, was an Alabama fan as a youngster. Now, it’s Louisiana Tech all the way.
“I’ll where that red and blue everywhere,” he said.
Northeast head coach Ricky Smither said both players have the potential to play on Sundays when their college careers end.
“They both can play at the next level,” he told the crowd of friends and family members at the ceremony. “They didn’t know what they were getting into when they got to Northeast. We put them through H-E-L-L and now they are ready to move on. They handed themselves with class through the whole thing.”