If sophomore offensive tackle Dallas Thomas’ credentials as an offensive lineman say anything about his protection skills, then he will be in good shape when he graduates.
Thomas, a criminal justice major, has played a consistent role on the Vols’ offensive line starting in every game at left tackle so far after seeing action on special teams in each contest a year ago.
At Scotlandville High School in Baton Rouge, La., Thomas was a first team all-state honoree as a junior and senior when he was a part of an offensive line that didn’t allow a sack in either campaign.
A strong suit of his, Thomas wants to continue in the protection business off the field when he graduates.
“I want to be either a U.S. Marshall or an FBI agent,” Thomas said. “I’d like to go in and bust down the door and take care of business. Or I could be that guy that if somebody is really acting up and they don’t want to cooperate, they come to me.
“You don’t want to have to deal with me.”
Standing at 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighing in at 295 pounds, no one can argue with that on or off the field. While the offensive line has battled the adversity of inexperience and injuries, Thomas has high expectations for the unit’s future.
“We’ve made a lot of improvement,” Thomas said. “We can hopefully continue building on it. Throughout my time here, hopefully we can become a dominant offensive line like we know we can be and help put this program back on top.”
Thomas, whose first coach was his mother before moving to the little league ranks, had a hard work ethic instilled in him at an early age. He knows it will take just that to reach the goals he has in mind for his fellow teammates and himself up front. On most days, Thomas’ unit is the last one to be found on the practice field.
“We demand more out of ourselves,” Thomas said “You can’t get better if you don’t put in the extra work, especially as young as we are. It helps to look at film and walk through defensive fronts.”
While no one knows better for a child than its mother, Vols’ offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows what’s best for Thomas as an offensive tackle and has been pleased with the sophomore’s progress.
“Dallas is working hard,” Hiestand said. “He banged up his ankle a little bit but he’s bounced back and he’s making good progress. Like all of us, we have a lot to improve.”
Thomas hasn’t always been an enforcer on the offensive front. Growing up, Thomas primarily played defense, mainly on the opposite side of the ball. The Louisiana native made the switch to the offensive line in high school.
“It just sort of happened,” Thomas said. “I was always playing defense so much so I said I would give it a try. I really put my heart into it. I just got really good at it and it became my spot.”
Just as Thomas put his heart into perfecting his craft in high school, he carries the same mentality at Tennessee, a mentality that earned him the Harvey Robinson Award as Tennessee’s offensive surprise player of the 2010 spring practice period.
“I didn’t even know I was one of the candidates for it,” Thomas said. “I didn’t even think the coaches were looking at me that hard. To win that award, it really opened things up for me. It pushed me a lot. I knew all eyes were on me and I just got used to it. Things started coming more natural.”
As Thomas continues to put his heart into the offensive line, no one should be surprised if his expectations for this unit and this team come to fruition. Not even him.