Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is the host of Recruiting Thursday, a weekly radio show that airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on 92.1 FM in Fayetteville; 93.7 FM in Little Rock; 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home; and 106.9 FM in Arkadelphia.
Thomas talks recruiting and road to Arkansas
Arkansas Assistant Coach Joel Thomas works with the Razorbacks during practice Saturday morning in Fayetteville.
Arkansas running backs coach Joel Thomas' recruiting philosophy is focused on honesty and treating prospects like they're already on campus.
" I think when you start to fib and lie in recruiting you forget what you've said and that's when bad things tend to happen," Thomas said. "I know there's guys that do it that way. That's not my cup of tea. I'm not very good at that way. I can give my word and what I'm about. It's been a pretty way of handling my business. I want to make sure their families are comfortable with what I'm selling. The product that's here and the atmosphere that's going to be here and be around him on a day-to-day basis."
The Hogs' running backs have impressed Thomas during spring practice.
"This group of guys they work hard and I appreciate that every day," Thomas said. "We're going to get some results out of them. That's the joy of coaching college football watch the results and kids get better on a day-today basis. "
Thomas' road to Arkansas started in 2000 while working as a graduate assistant at Purdue for then Boilermaker offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Thomas said his relationship with Chaney and the chance to coach in the SEC and work for Coach Bret Bielema lured him to Fayetteville.
"I had this gut feeling when I saw that Jim was going to be the offensive coordinator here I would get a call," Thomas said. "You can ask my wife that. It was kind of a hunch . Obviously Coach Bielema's history with backs and what he's done at Wisconsin. I always followed them when I was in the Big Ten and even out at Washington I followed what they did and I had an admiration for how they ran the ball."
The move to Arkansas was also based on family. He and his wife, Ebbie, who was a three-time pole vault champion at Purdue, have two sons, Teyo, a 20 month old and an infant.
"I wanted to get back into a college town environment," Thomas said. "I loved Seattle. I had a great time there. I just wanted to get somewhere I could get home in five minutes if I need to in lunch time."
He said his wife is enjoying Fayetteville.
"Obviously with any newborn you're kind of restricted on what you're really experiencing," Thomas said. "I'm looking forward to the summer time when we can really get out and experience Northwest Arkansas and see some things and travel a little bit and really get to see what really brings people to this place. "
Thomas will recruit north Dallas, an area he recruited while at Washington.
"I'll also have Arlington, Mansfield, Irving and I'll work my way out to east Texas to Tyler and Longview," Thomas said. "That will be my main area. Obviously national running backs where they're outside of a guy's area where we have primary recruiter and I'll be a little bit in south Houston. "
Arkansas running back signee Alex Collins recently tweeted his respect for Thomas' days as a running back at Idaho where he holds several career records, including 765 rushing attempts, 3,929 rushing yards and 51 rushing touchdowns.
A two-time first-team All-Big West selection, Thomas was named the Big West Player of the Year as a senior. He received invites to play in the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game. Thomas described his running style as downhill while having good power, decent speed and a refusal to go down.
"It's a mentally and that's the kind of mentality I want my guys to have," said Thomas of running hard. "I really believe in order to play the position a lot has to do with attitude and obviously polishing up your technique . That's what I hung my hat as a player. I wasn't the most talented guy but I was productive. My goal is to get the most talented guy here and have that productivity because I think they'll go off the charts."
Get to know Joel Thomas-
Favorite food- You can't go wrong with pizza. Thin crust..I like double pepperoni. If I'm really into it I like double pepperoni, onions, pineapple and I'll put crushed red pepper on it.
One thing you won't eat- I'm pretty good with eating. When you start getting into raw stuff that's not cooked or prepared that's when I kind of get a little squirmish on it. I'll eat most anything. There's nothing where I'll say I'll never eat
Downtime- Obviously the family. I love...right now I can only really play with my oldest Teyo. My sons are so big in my life. Anything I can do with them I can. I love it. If I'm out on my own I'm not great at golf but l like getting out on the golf course. I like the camaraderie of hanging out with the fellas and having a cigar here or there. I like to work out and try and stay in shape. It's tough when I head to the Catfish Hole and try and get that good workout in.
Favorite sports movies:
The Natural and The Sandlot. Actually I can watch that any day