Brian Thomas is a Texas boy. Living large kind of comes with the territory.
Just imagine the teenager’s reaction when he packed into a car with his parents and older brother, drove halfway across the country 15 months ago and discovered the oldest town in Pierce County – the one with majestic views of Puget Sound, but small enough to favor early bedtimes.
“Steilacoom,” he said, “is kind of puny.”
But it is home, at least for now. And Thomas, a junior, has found that football is football, wherever it’s played. Not only has he become one of the feared rushers in the South Puget Sound League 2A, he has
the kind of heavy-workload, big-play ability to someday set school rushing records.
And those marks – single-game yards (471), single-season yards (2,012 ) and single-season touchdowns (24) – set in 2003 by Danny Wilm are lofty.
“I want to get those records,” Thomas said. “Just need a couple more big games.”
Thomas has played 17 varsity games at Steilacoom since arriving in the summer of 2012. He has amassed 2,283 yards and 30 rushing touchdowns, averaging just over 9.2 yards per carry.
“He is real scary in space,” Orting coach Marty Parkhurst said. “A great receiver, and an even better runner.”
The journey to Steilacoom has been trying, he admits. He was born in Harker Heights, a Texas city where families of U.S. Army soldiers settle near Fort Hood.
In middle school, Thomas turned out for the sixth grade team as a running back. His older brother, Patrick Jr., played linebacker for the eighth-grade squad.
In 2010, their father, Patrick – a U.S. Army sergeant major – was transferred to Fort Lee in Virginia. The family moved to Chesterfield, Va., znd the boys played football for Clover Hill High School.
At that point, Brian Thomas figured he could relax, unwind and settle into a new community.
He couldn’t get enough of eating at the Chipotle Mexican Grill, or hitting the local movie theater with best friends Sal Sidoti from the football team and Azmar Middleton from the track and field squad.
It is where Thomas wanted to live for a long time – possibly forever.
Soon after track season ended in the spring of 2012, he was hit with stunning news from his mother, Ebony, that the family would uproot again, this time traveling to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the state of Washington.
“When I moved from Texas, it was no big deal – I was discovering new things. It was an adventure, and it was fine because everyone was still young, and it was so easy to make friends,” Thomas said. “Next thing I knew, we were packing up. I was sad. I might have even shed a couple of tears.
“When we left, I thought my life was over.”
But if Thomas thought he had it bad, all he had to do was look over in the back seat of the car to his older brother, who would have to enroll into a new high school for his senior year.
“He was having a worse time,” Thomas said.
After looking at North Thurston and Lakes, someone suggested the Thomas’ duo take a look at Steilacoom. The school was smaller, but more opportunity existed. And the Sentinels’ offensive backfield heavily utilized a wing-T attack.
Patrick Jr. spent time at quarterback before moving to linebacker, and Brian ended up as a starting running back from the first day. In fact, Brian Thomas finished second in SPSL 2A rushing last season to Clover Park’s Brandon Pritchett.
“The seniors on the team last year … had lived in Steilacoom their whole lives, and they were great leaders,” Thomas said. “They knew everything. And they made us feel so welcome, so it was easy to adjust.”
Thomas may never get to Wilm’s records purely based on one factor: carries. Thomas, Michael Mack and Jose Garcia are all big contributors in the run game.
“In the beginning, I wanted the ball more. When I didn’t get it, I was aggravated,” Thomas said. “But in our offense, if I only got the ball, it would be easier for teams to shut us down. What that has taught me is when I get the ball, I have to go all out.”
In many ways, Thomas has grown to like the laid-back atmosphere of Steilacoom. Now with his father deployed overseas, his support group is small but steady.
There is just one concept he has not been able to figure out – available game-night tickets.
“In Virginia, you would have to buy your tickets Tuesday or Wednesday,” he said. “By Friday (in Steilacoom), the games were all sold out.”