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Penn State Football: Derrick Thomas' Freshman Adjustment

The life of a college freshman is full of awkward transitions, embarking on new adventures, and gaining personal and educational strengths. Being a freshman football player at one of the most tradition-rich and acclaimed universities doubles the stakes in a freshman’s journey.

Added on pressures, balancing schedules, practice, class, homework, team meetings, games and even down time can really take a toll on a young student athlete. I sat down with freshman defensive back, Derrick Thomas to gain some insight on a Penn State footballer’s Freshman Adjustment.

Thomas played both ways of the field his junior year at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland. He finished with 11 receiving touchdowns and three interceptions on defense. Thomas was a first team all-4A Prince George’s County selection as a wide receiver, and was named all-Met in 2007. He averaged 20 yards per catch as a junior and brought in 11 touchdowns. Also returning two kickoffs and two punts for touchdowns and had three interceptions on defense, Thomas commands attention with his compelling plays in many positions on the field. 

Here’s a few things Thomas had to say in our interview about being a freshman here at Penn State:

Name: Derrick Thomas

Age: 18

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

High School: Eleanor Roosevelt

Position: Defensive Back

Stats (Scout.com): 3-star position ranking; Position rank No. 47

I know you've been asked this a million times but...what made you choose Penn State after your recruiting process?

I chose Penn State because I thought it would be a good choice both academically and athletically.

What other schools were you considering? Any particular reason why?

Tennessee, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Maryland were among my other choices. I knew I liked Penn State but I still wanted to give every school a chance; I wanted to look at every opportunity on the table. 

Did anything specific about PSU and the football program here stick out to you while on your official visit?

There was a lot of tradition shown. Even outside of football. I felt a sense of tradition from the university as a whole. 

What were you initial feelings the first day of classes?

I was ready to see how classes would be set up. You know, how different it would really be from high school. And it was actually a lot easier than I expected. I was surprised. 

Do you have a favorite course?

I'm really interested in my African-American studies class, Malcolm X. We learn about a lot of things that I wasn't taught in high school. 

In your opinion, is the work a lot more complex than in high school?

Yeah! In high school I could sleep through the whole class and still pass. Here, there's lots of reading and studying. 

How about the adjustment from high school football to the NCAA?

For me, it wasn't very difficult. I feel as though if you can really play football, you can play anywhere. 

How different is your hometown from that of Happy Valley?

It is VERY different. I live in the city, the nation's capital at that, and here there's not must city life. Just a lot of mountains and stuff. 

Is it difficult for you as a red shirt freshman to sit along the sidelines on game days?

Yes, it's very difficult because you come from high school being the "go-to" player and now you're watching like a spectator. 

Did you enjoy your first game day experience in Beaver Stadium? How did it feel?

I liked it a lot. It's real cool going from 1,000 people at your game to over 100,000.

Any crazy fan stories?

On my official visit, three guys walked up to me while I was at a party and knew all about me. Like my whole bio. It was crazy because I was just a recruit and even know I'm just a red shirted freshman. It goes to show you how loyal the fan base is out here. 

How does it feel being coached by the legendary Coach Joe Paterno?

I feel honored to play for a legend like Coach Paterno. A lot of college athletes don't get the chance to experience being coached by someone who has been around the game so long.

What do you bring to the Penn State Football Team?

I bring excitement. Period. 

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