The right set of circumstances has Elmira Notre Dame senior Hunter Thomas on his way to play college football.
Following a standout senior season as the Crusaders’ quarterback, the 5-foot-10, 160-pounder from Big Flats will head down the road to Mansfield University to play sprint football for the Mountaineers.
“I wasn’t thinking about it until my senior year,” Thomas said. “I was just going to play college baseball. Then I had the opportunity to play sprint football and I was like, ‘Wow, I never even thought about it.’ I’ve got the opportunity to play sprint football and I have a chance to play baseball. I think it’s just going to be great to be able to play the two even though it’s going to be very difficult.”
Thomas, 18, signed his National Letter of Intent to play football Tuesday afternoon during a ceremony at the high school’s library. Among those who attended were his parents, Terry and Lisa Thomas, along with several of his coaches and teammates.
Mansfield plays in the Collegiate Sprint Football League, where players must weigh 172 pounds or less. The Mountaineers were 1-6 last season, their fifth as a member of the league.
“It’s a good fit for me because I’m not the biggest to play college football,” Thomas said.
This past season Thomas helped the Crusaders to a 7-2 record in football that included a forfeit at the start of the season because they didn’t have enough players. Thomas completed 86 of 152 passes for 1,503 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also ran 30 times for 134 yards and four touchdowns and received honorable mention to the Class D all-state team.
“Our season was amazing, especially with Coach (Mike D’Aloisio) and the coaches,” Thomas said. “We had so much fun and we were a family together.”
Thomas’ ability to lead from the quarterback spot was a big reason for Notre Dame’s success.
“Really, really came on strong,” said Notre Dame defensive coordinator Ron Norman. “He’s a smart player, that’s what I like most about him. He’s like another coach on the field.
“Mike runs a pretty complex offense and Hunter knew it as well as Mike did almost. And he’s a great athlete and he’s got good quickness. He’ll do really well (at Mansfield) I think.”
Thomas played point guard for the boys basketball team and led the Section 4 Class C champion Crusaders in assists.
He returns as a shortstop/pitcher for his fifth season of varsity baseball. He batted nearly .500 last season and led the Section 4 Class D runner-up Crusaders in hits, stolen bases and RBIs while earning second-team all-state honors.
Bill Hopkins is Thomas’ varsity coach in basketball and baseball.
“I’ve always been impressed with Hunter’s instincts,” Hopkins said. “He’s able to pick up any sport and grasp the concepts and just really excel.
“On the personal side he’s a quality human being who typifies what Notre Dame is all about — hard-working student-athletes who just come every day and they kind of bring their lunch pail and they go to work. It’s been a joy for me to coach him these last four years in basketball and now these last two years in baseball.”
Thomas said he plans to major in criminal justice at Mansfield.
“I was thinking about other schools — four, five, six schools — and I decided on Mansfield just because I thought it was the right pick,” he said. “It’s not too far from home and sprint football and baseball at the same time, I thought it would be cool to do two sports.”