MORGANTOWN — It is little more than another spring day, the sun beating down on Mountaineer Field where the West Virginia Mountaineers were going through a partial scrimmage.
Nothing big, really, yet if you gazed closely at the sidelines you saw that the No. 1 defensive unit had just left the field. There’s no benches on these days, so players were standing or kneeling their on the sideline, trying to get their breath back from the previous series.
Prowling the sideline like a hungry tiger at dinner time is linebacker J.T. Thomas.
And like that tiger, he’s growling.
He shouts. He stomps. He urges.
For him this is not just any spring.
This is the last spring of J.T. Thomas and he honestly has come to believe it is when this upcoming season will be made or destroyed.
“I’m a believer how you work in the spring, how dedicated you are in the summer will determine the kind of team you are,” he says a short time after working out.
He’s lived it over and over in his time here, seen the fruits that come off a tree that is taken care of in its formative stage and one that isn’t.
He’s thinking fruit like oranges, that come from his native Florida and that wind up in, what else, the Orange Bowl, or something of its equivalent.
“The spring determines what you become in the fall,” he continued. “I’ve been on teams that went to the Fiesta Bowl and on teams that went to the Gator Bowl.”
Those are different teams, teams with a mission.
J.T. Thomas’s mission is to lead his team to the top, do it despite having an inexperienced quarterback by taking the pressure of that quarterback with an attacking, blood-sucking defense.