Maurice Thomas has proved his worth as a college return man for the Miami RedHawks.
As a senior, he hopes to show the college football world he is much more.
“I definitely feel like I'm ready for this year and just ready to fill the big shoes that are ahead of me with (the graduation of) Alonzo (Smith) and Kenny (Young),” he said at MAC Media Day in Detroit on Tuesday.
Smith and Young combined for more than 1,000 yards last season while Thomas was the team’s No. 3 rusher with 233 yards on 61 carries.
He also caught 13 passes for 34 yards while averaging 26.7 yards per kickoff return (including a 99-yard touchdown).
With Jaylon Bester and Davion Johnson also back in the backfield, Thomas should be able to move around the formation in order to allow the coaching staff to exploit the explosiveness in his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame.
“I'm definitely expecting them to help us out and I’ll be the guy where I can return kicks, be slot, do running back, just wherever I am needed to go, I can.”
Thomas is in year five as a RedHawk, but he knew Oxford well before enrolling in 2015.
The son of two Miami grads, Thomas starred at Talawanda, where he ran for 4,749 yards and score 65 touchdowns for the Braves.
The 2014 Southwest Ohio Player of the Year in Division III, he had three 300-yard games and went for 414 yards in one contest.
A three-star prospect, he chose his hometown college team over other MAC offers — despite the RedHawks having fallen on hard times during his high school career, including an 0-12 season in 2013.
“Well, Coach (Chuck) Martin and all the coaches were coming in and making the transition,” he said of the man who became head coach of the RedHawks in 2014. “And they just really had that fire and passion so they made me feel confident that they were going to turn it around.”
So far he has enjoyed his time wearing the Red and White, but he hopes to have saved his best for last.
He has 735 yards rushing and 227 yards receiving in four seasons, including a 2017 campaign cut short by injury, and Martin said he will be first-team All-MAC kick returner will be the feature back this fall.
“Well he's been a dynamic player since he got here,” Martin said. "He's been a dynamic returner, a big play guy in our offense. His biggest thing is just staying healthy. He's always been in and out of the lineup, and we need him this year to really stay healthy.
“He's a dangerous return guy, had a kickoff return for a touchdown against Western Michigan last season, so there are just different ways to get him the ball. He can catch the ball, run the ball, you know, and as many touches as he can handle, we're going to try to get him.”
That sounds good to Thomas, who has an eye on continuing a trend of slim-but-dangerous open-field players such as Tarik Cohen of the Chicago Bears who have cared out niches in the NFL in recent years.
“I definitely like being versatile, especially for League aspirations,” Thomas said. “So I'm not the biggest back, but I can play slot, I can run routes. I can catch kicks and (run button-hooks). Just being able to be moved and mold where I'm needed just makes my stock higher and increases my value.”