Tino Thomas 'so excited to get back'

Shoulder injury from lifting weights led to grayshirt

Tino Thomas

Tino Thomas

Tino Thomas was lifting weights with his new teammates in July, less than three weeks after he officially enrolled for the first college classes of his Tennessee career, when something popped in his left shoulder.

Within a month, Thomas, his arm in a sling after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum, was back with his family in Memphis. He remained there all throughout the fall and is still there now, counting down the days until he returns to UT in January for the spring semester and spring football.

"I'm just so excited to get back," Thomas said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I'm just excited to get back with my teammates and everything."

Thomas, who played at Melrose High School as a do-everything athlete, suffered the injury during a repetition of clean and jerks, a two-part maneuver in which the lifter raises the bar from the ground to shoulder level, holds it there for a few seconds and then lifts it above his head. Something went immediately wrong on the way up, and Thomas knew it.

"I was like 'Oh, man,' " he recalled. "I was like 'Something is wrong with my shoulder. What a bad time for it to pop out of place.' "

The incident came one week before fellow freshman Devrin Young fractured his collar bone while lifting weights, but the impact of his accident lingered much longer.

The timing, as Thomas said, wasn't great, and that's why he wound up being the odd man out in UT's 2011 signing class.

With the ability to put 26 on scholarship, UT signed 28 in 2011, leaving wiggle room for the inevitable attrition that typically plagues incoming freshman classes because of grades and other qualifying issues. Eddrick Loften failed to qualify for a second time, leaving just one player exposed to the possibility of grayshirting, a practice that forces a player to withdraw from the program entirely until the following season.

For a time, it appeared that player would be defensive back Geraldo Orta, who underwent shoulder

surgery last December. Thomas' injury, though, changed things.

Through the first two weeks of preseason camp, it became clear that Orta, who was months ahead of Thomas in his rehabilitation but still was not able to play in 2011, would be able to get more out of being with the team than Thomas, who expects to play at cornerback in 2012.

"I didn't even know what a grayshirt was," Thomas said. "I didn't even know there was a grayshirt. They had to sit me down and explain the transition and everything.

"It was real tough. Real tough."

Thomas said his family didn't initially understand the situation, either, but they welcomed him back with open arms.

UT, he said, has been similarly receptive in the months and days leading up to his return. Even though former wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett, who was Thomas' lead recruiter, is no longer with the program, Thomas said he's had plenty of conversations with his future position coach, Terry Joseph.

"Everything was pretty good communication-wise," Thomas said. "Most people think the coaches won't be talking to you much because you're not there."

Thomas said his day-to-day focus has centered exclusively on his rehabilitation, which he goes through daily with Jay Phillips, a Memphis Interscholastic Athletic Association certified trainer, at nearby Sheffield High. He's recently moved on from one-handed workouts to two-handed, and has been running daily.

Thomas said he's added weight and just cleared 200 pounds.

"That's what they want me at," he said.

Because he was grayshirted, Thomas counts toward the number of players UT signs to scholarship in 2012. Not including him, UT's current group of commitments stands at 21, four short of the newly instituted limit of 25.

Thomas is one of four potential newcomers — joining commitments Daniel Gray (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.), Kenneth Crawley (Washington, D.C.) and LaDarrell McNeil (Dallas) — for a defensive backfield that was constantly in flux throughout the 2011 season.

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 24

HtownVol writes:

DB is looking good.

200 lbs seems pretty big for this guy but if he can still run the 4.5 40 then it is great with me.

UT has a lot of young highly recruited DB's and it should pay off soon. However that is what I said about the O-Line and I think they took a step back this season.

GO VOLS

elbtenn#502977 writes:

Stay healthy, everyone. We need EVERYONE this coming season!

LJS1984 writes:

I'm glad somebody is excited about Tennessee football. Too bad some of the other players don't share his enthusiasm.

nocleats writes:

Work you arse off Tino.... Get quicker, faster, stronger, better, every day

Go_Big_O writes:

Glad to have you back Tino! Keep the faith!

Dwinsgames writes:

we can get all the player's we lost back and will still suck as long as Dooley keeps coaches like Hindtit around.No such thing in their repitoir as "coaching up". Here's hoping the end of next year hurries up and gets here and we can be shed of Dooley the Dough head.

clvolfan writes:

Welcome back young man,and nice to have a recruit from,I hope I'm right,Tennessee.Your extra year of maturity will be welcome in that DB field,go get it in the spring and win yourself a start.God bless and good fortune to you in life and on the field.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Dwinsgames:

we can get all the player's we lost back and will still suck as long as Dooley keeps coaches like Hindtit around.No such thing in their repitoir as "coaching up". Here's hoping the end of next year hurries up and gets here and we can be shed of Dooley the Dough head.

Boy oh boy,

You've got a long year ahead of you haven't you?
Stay miserable..........that's fine with Vol fans.

cyclonevol87 writes:

in response to Dwinsgames:

we can get all the player's we lost back and will still suck as long as Dooley keeps coaches like Hindtit around.No such thing in their repitoir as "coaching up". Here's hoping the end of next year hurries up and gets here and we can be shed of Dooley the Dough head.

Dave Hart keeps a short list of names to replace Dooley im sure your name is on it,NOT!

HtownVol writes:

in response to cyclonevol87:

Dave Hart keeps a short list of names to replace Dooley im sure your name is on it,NOT!

I would at least love to get rid of Jim Chaney!!
It is clear that Chaney does not belong.
How hard was it to figure out that UT did not have a Center capable of snapping the ball to the shotgun? Yet JC did not ever get that memo and it cost UT the UK game and a bowl game.

Is there anyone that does not know that UT will have a strong passing game in 2012? UT should be able to throw the ball all over the field but I bet JC keeeps it more of a pro-style Offense. Play to your strength!
Do not abandon the run but do not run the I or 3 TE sets 50% of plays either.

Volfan4445 writes:

looks like we got three more schoalrships left.... i say go for patterson, Bullard, and Kochran or however you spell it maybe mike davis... whats your guys opipion?

jasvol writes:

Three BIG, Nasty, Mean, RIP your head OFFF, offensive linemen with ATTITUDE of hate.
That's what I want for X-mas.

deputy658 writes:

We want Patterson, Mike Davis and the DT out of Georgia his name is McCullers and he is huge 380 lbs and has narrowed to UT and Bama. Others we would take if there is room are Olinemen Jordan Diamond ,Joey Occoner and Andrew Jelks.If we can get Patterson and any two of the other five guys it would be great.

harveyupdyketreehugger writes:

Tino - i hope you are phsysical,fearless, and have good ball skills (like Eric Gordon). I also hope you are assigment savy (unlike Eric Gordon). Cornerback is wide open to all comers in 2012. Nobody impressed me in 2011.

FLORIDAGATORHATER writes:

It wouldn't matter if our secondary consisted of all five star guys. We can't rush the quarterback. We need huge linemen!!!!

Vols17 writes:

Congrats Tino, I wish you the best of luck in your career at UT. Off topic here, but is anyone else pumped up about Alton Howard besides me?

givehim6 writes:

in response to LJS1984:

I'm glad somebody is excited about Tennessee football. Too bad some of the other players don't share his enthusiasm.

Let us hope his enthusiasm will catch on and grow. The Vols have two choices the way I see it. 1. You can wipe the sleet clean, learn from the mistakes of 2011, get stronger, tougher and wiser. or 2. Roll over cry and whin, become SEC bottomfeaders. this is for the fans to note also.

dislikethemtrolls writes:

in response to Dwinsgames:

we can get all the player's we lost back and will still suck as long as Dooley keeps coaches like Hindtit around.No such thing in their repitoir as "coaching up". Here's hoping the end of next year hurries up and gets here and we can be shed of Dooley the Dough head.

Cheezdoughhead, Nevermind.

Bandwagon fans are funny. I remember how everyone was pumped going into the Florida game. Didn't seem to need a running game the way the offense was lighting it up. Then Hunter goes down and it changes EVERYTHING. It was obvious attending the Arkansas, that this team has no breakaway speed. Lane broke into the open and couldn't get any seperation. Same with the recievers. Hunter seemed to be the only one who could get seperation. Hopefully the speed and running game will come. Along with some new kickers.

Navaloranges writes:

Good deal. He's another year older and smarter, and still has four. I bet his work ethic is better too. He was about a 5.6 3*. About a .2 from a 4* prospect, with other sec offers. 6', 200lbs., and on the track team in HS. The best news is he's excited to get back with HIS teammates.

Volfan4445 writes:

in response to deputy658:

We want Patterson, Mike Davis and the DT out of Georgia his name is McCullers and he is huge 380 lbs and has narrowed to UT and Bama. Others we would take if there is room are Olinemen Jordan Diamond ,Joey Occoner and Andrew Jelks.If we can get Patterson and any two of the other five guys it would be great.

i havnt seen this mccullers whats his star rating? not that it matters but im jw

nocleats writes:

in response to FLORIDAGATORHATER:

It wouldn't matter if our secondary consisted of all five star guys. We can't rush the quarterback. We need huge linemen!!!!

BULLSEYE! Post of the year! The last 5 yrs actually.

crimsonviper writes:

Hope the kid does well...Good story from Gribble....KNS should take note.I don't think anyone here is wanting complete UT homer stories..A few more of these would be nice.

volsfanntn11 writes:

I HEAR YA BIG FELLA....HOPE ALL IS WELL WITH YOU.....MAY 2012 HOLD A VERY BIG YR FOR YOU AND THE VOLS...KEEP YOUR HEAD UP AND STAY IN THE BOOKS....HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR....CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOU AND THE REST OF THE VOLS ON THE FIELD THIS UPCOMING YEAR! GBO...VFL!

steamboatticket#484773 writes:

Really glad to see that Tino is on track with the docs. Wonder if he's managed to watch film and work on reads?

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