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Thomas Keeps Michigan on Run

October 29, 2000|From Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Anthony Thomas was about to become one of the most famous football players in Michigan. To Hayley Herrera, he was nothing more than a stranger.

The two met at an art fair in the summer of 1997 and quickly struck up a conversation. But the budding Michigan Wolverines' star never mentioned how he was going to be spending his Saturday afternoons.

"When I first met him, I didn't know he was a football player," said Herrera, who became Thomas' wife on March 2. "It wasn't until later that night, after we talked for hours and hours, that I knew.

"I don't think he would ever use his name or status for his advantage. He's the most modest guy I've ever met."

Thomas would have every reason not to be.

The running back known as the A-Train has rushed for 1,121 yards and 12 touchdowns this season for the No. 15 Wolverines, who are off this week.

He has a chance to have his name at the top of the school's record books, which is quite an accomplishment considering Michigan has produced the likes of Jamie Morris, Tyrone Wheatley, Tim Biakabutuka, Butch Woolfolk and Rob Lytle.

Thomas, who has 3,858 career yards rushing, needs to average 134 yards in his final four games to pass Morris as Michigan's career leading rusher.

Last week, Thomas broke Wheatley's rushing touchdowns record with 49 and needs just one more 100-yard game to match Wheatley's mark of 20.

Thomas, who returned to school this season despite the lure of the NFL draft, is already fifth in kickoff returns, eighth in total offense and 16th in yards receiving.

"Anthony Thomas is greater than the sum of his parts," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "We've had a lot of great running backs here and he's breaking a lot of their records. He's been an important component of our program over the last four years, which means he's won a national championship, two Big Ten championships and an Orange Bowl."

Maybe it's Thomas' quiet ways that have made him the best running back in the country whom people don't seem to be talking about.

Maybe it's because he's not the most exciting back, just one who gets 2 yards on a fourth-and-1 or picks up a blitzing linebacker on a third-and-12.

Maybe it's because he's content to be overshadowed by teammates Drew Henson and David Terrell.

"It really doesn't bother me," said Thomas, a 22-year-old senior. "I didn't come back for the publicity, I came back to win games and to graduate."

Carr marvels at how Thomas carries himself.

"Anthony is the most unassuming kid I've ever coached," Carr said. "If you talked to everybody on this campus, I think you would be hard-pressed to find anybody to say anything negative about him. And the best thing is, with all the wonderful things that he's accomplished, he hasn't changed one bit."

Thomas said the milestones he's passed and the games he's won are trivial compared with the moment he met his wife.

"She's my backbone," Thomas said. "A lot of guys don't have somebody like her that they can talk to after a hard day."

The way Thomas runs, he doesn't look as if he'll have too many of those for the rest of the season.

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