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January 15, 2014

Thomas is 'Mr. Football'

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. | Racean Thomas was named the state's "Mr. Football" by the Alabama Sports Writers Association on Wednesday afternoon, but that wasn't nearly enough to satisfy him.

He was happy about winning the prestigious award, of course. The tailback from Oxford, a Rivals five-star prospect, was "humbled" by the attention and said it provides important affirmation that he's living his life the right way.

Still, he has bigger awards on his mind.

"I want to win the Heisman," Thomas said. "Jameis Winston won it and I want to be next. You've just got to have that 'it' factor. You can't win an award and just go down, try to chill at home. You have to keep working. I just have to keep moving forward."

The next step of his journey will begin at Auburn. Thomas committed to coach Gus Malzahn in August and his allegiance hasn't wavered, which is a good sign for the Tigers' improving offense. As a senior, Thomas finished with 2,211 yards and 32 touchdowns despite missing some time with injuries.

Rivals lists Thomas as the nation's No. 2 tailback.

Many observers expect the tailback to make a significant contribution this fall. He feels the same way, but knows it won't be easy.

"There's a lot of pressure. I have some big shoes to fill," Thomas said. "Tre Mason -- he's a great running back. I think he'll be great in the NFL. I can't go in with a big head. I have to go in with a strong heart and a strong mind."

Brining up Mason's season isn't a coincidence.

Mason arrived at Auburn in 2011 at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds. Thomas currently is listed at 5-11 and 198 pounds. Both players are willing to deliver punishment as needed and developed reputations for making the most out of every opportunity.

Thomas likes the way Auburn found ways to get Mason into open space so often during the 2013 season. He believes he also can thrive in similar situations this fall.

"It'll make it a lot easier to not take as many (big) hits," Thomas said. "I can make people miss and make my way into the end zone. I think I'll do great in this offense. I think I'll try to shape out like (Mason). We're pretty similar."

Thomas and the 2012 Mr. Football, quarterback Jeremy Johnson, give Auburn winners in consecutive seasons for the first time since Carnell Williams (Etowah) and Brandon Cox (Hewitt-Trussville) went back-to-back beginning in 2000.

Thomas gathered 15 of 17 first-place votes.



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