While college is the most enjoyable time for some, there was a two-year stretch at Clemson where Xavier Thomas went through a rough patch.
He sustained a concussion during his sophomore season but was determined to bounce back in a major way as a junior then head to the NFL Draft. Then came April 2020, and the defensive end contracted COVID-19 and dealt with the effects of it for months. Breathing became a laborious task, not only because of the virus but because Thomas had gotten up to 294 pounds. At 6-foot-2, the weight was too much for him to carry, but the mental toll each health issue took was even heavier.
“It was depressing because I know where I was and I know what I had, what my goals were,” Thomas said. “That set me back a lot and just waking up every morning. I wasn’t motivated or anything like that. I was just, really just disappointed in myself. I was really feeling sorry for myself for a lot of months.”
He was never lacking a support system, though, talking to his friends, coaches and family about whatever was on his mind. Finally, the Florence native had an aha moment. For all of the accolades and expectations others had put on him, Thomas had to realize his own worth. More than what others thought, he had to believe in himself.
“I just woke up one day and realized what I’m capable of doing and I just wanted to get back to my old self,” he explained.
Raw talent alone couldn’t do it. Thomas eventually found the motivation he needed to knock off the extra 30 pounds. Adding a extra afternoon cardio and weight-training sessions on top of Clemson’s morning workouts.
“(I) was praying a lot and grinding my way out and taking it day by day and building it brick by brick,” he said, “because I was real impatient with the process, but we got through it.”
Working out was easy. He’d had some form of exercise his whole life as an athlete. What took the most discipline, he admitted, was the diet portion.
Thomas cut back on high-calorie foods, didn’t eat after 8 p.m. and, what he said was the hardest of all, he gave up sweets.
“All sweets,” Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney interjected when Thomas was asked which kinds then patted his player on his trimmer, leaner back. “He can eat sweets the rest of his life.”
It took time, but Thomas saw the results as his weight began to drop. On June 25, he tweeted out that he was back down to 265 lbs. His listed weight on his football bio, which was taken on Aug. 5, is 270 pounds.
“Been a long road but we BACK!” he wrote on social media almost two months ago.
Indeed, Thomas is back. His plan of going to the 2021 NFL Draft was derailed by a COVID-spoiled junior season, but he’s grown from the ordeal and is ready to make an impact in his final season with Clemson. The 2022 NFL Draft is still a possibility with the defensive lineman projected to go in the first round next April.
“I just wanted to come in this year and just do what I’m capable of, and I know that I can be one of the best defensive players in the country,” said Thomas, who graduated with a degree in criminal justice in December. “I can’t wait to show the world. Just staying motivated as much as I can be.”