Charles Thomas isn’t easily star-struck.
But then again, the 4-star linebacker — the No. 6-ranked inside linebacker of the 2019 class — doesn’t run into the most famous pair of khakis in the world every day, either.
“So we were in a meeting in a room, and then we were watching a video in the new weight room,” Thomas said during a recent phone call. “In the middle of the video, Jim Harbaugh walked through the door …”
Keep in mind that weight rooms are basically a second home to the 6-foot, 222-pound IMG Academy standout. With that said, he was in awe of Michigan’s facilities, so it was going to take something or someone special — like the Wolverines head coach — to divert his attention.
— Charles Thomas (@CtdabeastThomas) July 13, 2017
“So like, I’m watching the video, I look through the corner of my eye and see Jim Harbaugh — I never had that feeling about any type of celebrity … with anybody. But with him, it was different. I was like, ‘Oh my God, Jim Harbaugh is next to me,‘ ” Thomas explained, laughing.
They exchanged words, a “normal conversation,” and that was that.
But Thomas didn’t want it to end — not that way, not with just a quick encounter.
“He was about to leave, then I had called him back in. I got all the coaches together and told him that I would like to commit,” said Thomas, the Wolverines’ lone 2019 commit. “He started smiling and laughing, and then he went to go get (defensive coordinator) coach (Don) Brown — and then they just talked for a while.”
Once they finished, they outlined their intentions for the next two years.
“They were like, ‘Even though you’re still in high school, we’re going to be coaching you like you were at Michigan,’ ” Thomas said. “So they’re going to go over my film, through my high school games, and break it down to me over the phone — where I need to improve.”
That type of attention matters to Thomas; he’s the type to invest all of himself into something, and he expects the same in return. He received that at Michigan. In fact, he already knew he was going to pledge prior to his June 24 visit.
“Oh yeah. I already knew that I was going to commit, I just had to see (the school) for myself,” he said.
— Charles Thomas (@CtdabeastThomas) June 25, 2017
Note: Thomas maxes out with a 325-pound bench and a 550-pound squat.
What did he see?
The weight room, of course … one that’s in the midst of a $21 million facelift.
He couldn’t keep his eyes off that place, really.
“It’s all beautiful,” said Thomas, who already spends up to three hours per day lifting — Monday through Wednesday — and at least an equal amount of time improving skills on the field from Wednesday through Saturday.
He’s eager to do the same in Ann Arbor, Mich.
However, he also noticed a staff that’s willing to go out of its way to make a connection. Before visiting Michigan, Thomas had been on “probably five or six” trips to different schools. He was pursued by Clemson and Tennessee, which offered him as a freshman, and Florida State, which invited him for a visit, among others.
They were all good experiences, he said. Each school spent quality time. Each school wanted to form a bond.
But Brown took Thomas to the lab to break down film.
Nobody had ever done that, not on a college visit.
“That dude’s a genius,” Thomas said of Brown. “We were in there for about an hour and a half — we were in there for a while. I actually learned some things that I can use when I go back to IMG.”
Fast and physical — just right for the new breed of Wolverines linebackers. He’s the type of player heavily sought by Brown, who’s had the No. 1-ranked defense in college football for the three past years: 2014 at Boston College, and 2015 and 2016 at Michigan.
“I love how he runs his defense and puts players in great position,” Thomas said.
From joking around with linebackers coach Chris Partridge — who also hosted during the visit — to getting to know future teammates such as sophomore linebacker Devin Bush Jr., Thomas enjoyed his weekend in Ann Arbor.
“We got there (to Ann Arbor on June 23) and stayed in a hotel, and then my boy Noah Cain (4-star 2019 RB/IMG), he had come up there that weekend, too, so we ended up linking up,” Thomas said. “And then we hung out with (sophomore running back) Chris (Evans).
“We went to his apartment on the first night, played video games and chilled. We had gone to a fair, and then the next morning, I got up at 7: 30 — had to be at the school by 8 — and one of the recruiters who was showing me around had me try on a couple of uniforms; it was nice.”
Athletics, academics and campus life, along with facilities, coaching staff and the right type of players — Michigan has everything Thomas wants in a school.
While the fact that he’s the first to commit to the 2019 class may mean something to the general public and fans, it means little to Thomas.
“No, sir. It was just the school that I wanted to go to; it just felt like it was home,” he said. “It didn’t matter if 100 people committed before me… I was going there.”
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