LEXINGTON TWP. Speed, height, strength and weight are the first qualities a scout uses to judge a high school football player — and his potential to play at the next level.
At 6-foot-1, nearly 200 pounds and with 4.5 speed in the 40, Marlington senior Dymonte Thomas is a scout’s delight. Those attributes are why Scout.com has the University of Michigan recruit ranked the fourth-best safety prospect in the nation. It’s why Rivals.com has him ninth and Maxpreps.com 11th.
Thomas’ combination of physical talents and mad skills at safety and running back are why Repository writers and readers alike chose Thomas as the star player most likely to light up the 2012 high school fields.
“I’ve seen big guys, physical players. I’ve seen kids that can run,” said Dukes head coach Ed Miley. “He is a combination of size and speed. I know he’s 6-1, 190, 200, but he plays much bigger than that.
“He is very explosive.”
Video: Dymonte Thomas talks about the 2012 season.
In three seasons, Thomas has ripped off 3,317 yards on just 398 carries, a startling 8.3 yards per carry. He also has averaged 100 tackles for Dukes teams with a combined 29-6 record and two playoff berths.
Miley was quick to note that Thomas could end up as Marlington’s career rushing leader and career tackling leader. No easy feat, considering Alden Hill graduated last year as Stark County’s fifth all-time career rushing leader with 4,911 yards before heading to the University of Tennessee.
With Hill gone, Thomas will be Marlington’s main man on offense for the first time.
“With Alden back there, he really got the ball more than me,” Thomas said. “He was an older kid so I respected him and everything. My carries were a little short, but I don’t mind. We won games. I played defense, just went out there and had fun.
“It is really great just knowing coach has so much trust in me. He really relies on me. He’s like, if I get the ball in space, he knows I can break one. It’s nice to have a coach like that, he knows how to use his athletes.”
Miley has unleashed Thomas all over on defense.
“What we do,” Miley said, “is take him out of the scheme and just let him play ‘Go find the football.’ ”
This season, look for a similar approach on offense.
“When you can affect the game the way he can, you’ve got to find ways to get him the ball,” Miley said. “I guarantee you the offense will run through Dymonte this year.
“He has not had many touches (in the past). He had to share carries with Alden. But Dymonte never cared about stats and numbers. He just wanted to help his team win.”
And that’s where a list of intangibles concerning the best come into play. Things like unselfishness, leadership, smarts can mold a player’s greatness as much as size or strength.
“Just this week, guess who was our scout team tailback?” Miley asked. “Dymonte. That says a lot about the kid, that he volunteered to do it without being asked.”
“There are a lot of prima donnas out there. He’s not one of them.”
Thomas said he learned a valuable life lesson after his freshman season. Miley thought Thomas’ grades, while good enough to play, were not up to his capabilities.
“They weren’t bad,” Miley stressed. “But I called his dad. The next thing I knew, he was grounded for a month. There was no messing around (with Frank Thomas).”
“Being grounded is not really fun at all,” Dymonte said. (Messing around) is not worth it. The whole summer, your friends are out. It really makes you focus on your grades.”
He improved his grades and will study business at Michigan.
“He learned that he must always put forth an effort — that doing what it takes to get by was not good enough,” said Frank Thomas, a Dukes quarterback in the 1980s. “That you must always keep working hard and strive to be better. ... I believe he learned a lot from that (grounding).”
Dymonte brought that same approach to his offseason football work.
“Before (this preseason), I never did that much on my legs,” he said. “Then coach Miley worked with me one-on-one. My squats and my deadlifts and everything just improved, which made my legs stronger. I’ve been stretching more, which made my legs and back loose.”
A healthy, happy and motivated Thomas is eager to show Stark County what he can do. And he has his own list of what it takes to be the best.
“My check list is: God, family, school, sports, and everything else,” he said. “When you take care of those five, everything just falls into order for you. But you got to put God first.”