The lifelong Alabama fan will see his son run onto Pat Dye Field in rival Auburn’s colors. Racean “Roc” Thomas, who also grew up an Alabama fan, will start making plays for Auburn, probably sooner than later.
Then, the proud father who respects his son’s business decision will become an Auburn dad.
“It’s going to be like, maybe, during the season, or something like that, for me to get in it,” Frank Thomas said, “but I’m going to be supporting him, regardless. I’m going to be right there.”
The Thomases’ high-profile, state-of-Alabama recruiting story is finally, officially over. It ended Wednesday morning, when running back Racean Thomas faxed his National Letter of Intent to Auburn.
Then came the National Signing Day ceremony he shared with Oxford teammates Kenyn Richey, Tae Davis and Desmon Owens.
If anyone was miffed by Roc Thomas’ choosing one of this state’s rival SEC powers over the other, it wasn’t heard in Oxford High’s gym. There were no boos heard.
The assembly of students, teachers, family and friends cheered as Oxford took a moment before the ceremony to mark Roc Thomas’ many postseason awards, including Parade All-American recognition and Alabama’s Mr. Football.
Each of Oxford’s four football signees honored Wednesday got their moment with the mic to talk about their college choices. The crowd cheered each one.
Maybe the all-positive tone owed to the fact that Roc Thomas committed in August of last year and never hedged, even after new Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin paid him a visit in January. Signing day at Oxford held no shock value like that felt in Auburn, when Auburn High linebacker Rashaan Evans announced for Alabama.
“The first day I chose Auburn, it was solid, really,” Roc Thomas said. “I wasn’t really looking for any other place after that.”
People tried to change his mind in the intervening months. Anyone who read @El_GoldenChild’s Twitter feed saw that.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “Some of them were rude. Some of them were nice. Some of them wanted the best for me, and those are the real fans.
“It wasn’t really any stuff outside the lines, just people trying to persuade me to the other side and anywhere else. I mean, there were a lot of Kentucky people on my Twitter. They were blowing my Twitter up for a long time, but that kind of died.
“But there was nothing really crazy, not too crazy.”
Frank Thomas wasn’t surprised when his son got negative feedback. Passions around Alabama and Auburn football run hot, especially when it comes to recruiting. Some are slower than others to see the business behind the business decision.
“If you’re a fan of anybody, and you’ve got a chance to improve your team with a player and they don’t choose your team, you know, you want them,” Frank Thomas said. “Like, at Alabama, at the running back spot, the numbers don’t really match up for him to be there, but they do at Auburn.
“And with their style of offense, I think that’s the best place for him to be right now. Timing and everything just matched up in Auburn’s favor.”
Alabama signed four top running back prospects a year ago. Alvin Kamara recently announced he was transferring, but other 2013 signees remain, along with established backs T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake.
At the time Thomas announced his decision, his path to playing time looked shorter at Auburn. Tre Mason declaring for the NFL draft after his junior season shortened it more.
Also, Gus Malzahn’s return to Auburn as head coach a year ago meant the return of his run-first, hurry-up, no-huddle offense, which impressed during his three seasons as the school’s offensive coordinator. A spread offense spreads out a defense and affords a tackle-breaker like Thomas chances to make big plays.
All it takes is one broken tackle, maybe two.
So, a highly touted running back from Alabama grew up loving one state power, but he spun out of a rivalry’s passions and sprinted toward the rival state power.
Thomas chased the goal line, not the bright line.
As for anyone still struggling with his decision, follow his father’s lead.
“One thing that I told him, and I’ll tell everybody, as an Alabama fan, I wasn’t going to make the decision for him,” Frank Thomas said. “You’re talking about, you know, everybody wants their kids to grow up and be a man or a woman one day. Well, how could he consider himself that man, and I’m still making his decisions for him?
“When he went to Auburn -- and we all went -- I mean, I like it myself. So, he chose Auburn, and that’s where he’s at.”
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Medley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @jmedley_star.