His name is Anthony Thomas. Some may know him as the “A-Train”. Others know him by simply calling him one of the best running backs in Michigan football history. One thing remains true, with his bruising style of play earning him the nickname of the “A-Train”, Thomas remains the model of Michigan running backs to this day.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Thomas and ask him a few questions.
JH: To start, what are you up to these days?
THOMAS: I just finished up coaching this season, I am an assistant coach at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Right now we’re recruiting a new head coach as our previous coach was let go. We’re just waiting on another guy to come in and see how things go.
JH: What was it like to win a national championship as a freshman? What made that 1997 team so special?
THOMAS: It was just the guys we were with, as you know I was a freshman and those guys brought me along like I was one of the guys. They took me in like I was one of theirs. We did a pretty good job at being a family. That was the most important thing, we were a close-knit group of guys.
JH: Also, talk about Charles Woodson, a crucial member of the ’97 team. What was it like to play with him on the offensive side of the ball during his run to the Heisman?
THOMAS: It was something special. Just coming from a small town and seeing this guy play just every single position he wanted to play and be successful with it, it was eye-opening. It’s something you strive to be, he’s one of those guys that put himself high on the pedestal and you had to go out there and succeed for him.
JH: Looking back on your Michigan career, what does it mean to you that people mention you in the same breath as the all-time Michigan greats?
THOMAS: There’s a lot of guys that came to Michigan that were great football players, including running backs. Obviously they say I’m one, that’s something that makes me feel honored that I’m included and think of me like that. There’s other guys like Wheatley and Tim (Biakabutuka) who did also did a good job themselves.
JH: To build on that, you were Michigan’s leading career rusher for seven years until Mike Hart broke your record. What does that mean to you that you were (and still are) the standard of Michigan running backs?
THOMAS: It’s something that’s good, it’s something that guys can strive to get to. Mike Hart did it and it’s not something just Hart wanted to do. It’s something that all Michigan running backs strive to do.
JH: It’s also happens to be Ohio State week. What was your favorite moment as a player from the rivalry?
THOMAS: Probably my senior year (Michigan won 38-26), just coming out and playing those guys. You never know exactly what the records are, you kinda throw that out the window. You just have to go out there and play your best, just as we expected they were going to give us their best.
JH: What lessons learned from Coach Carr did you find valuable during your time in the NFL?
THOMAS: Being patient, take my time and try to study as much as I can. He’s one of those guys that tells me to always like I’ve been there before. It’s something that stuck with me as player and now as a coach. Act like you’ve been there before. Even when you score a touchdown, you don’t have to be outlandish and things like that.
JH: Finally, talk about Brady Hoke and the future of Michigan football in your perspective.
THOMAS: I think it’s a great opportunity for Coach Hoke. He coached us back in 1997 and I think he’s a great coach and a great person. I think he’s got the guys going in the right directions where we want to go and see them strive in. I think the kids have bought into the program and what he expects. I also think the coaching staff have gone out and done a great job with getting their kids out there and doing what they want them to do. I think it’s an up-and-up for those guys out there.
Thomas can be found on Twitter! Follow him at: @A_Train3235