Thomas set to lead Bobcats for last time
By Bart Moss for the FCT
Five years ago, late in the football season, Peyton Thomas got his first shot playing quarterback at the varsity level for the Phil Campbell Bobcats.
He wasn’t eased into the role. It was forced on because of another player’s sudden injury. It wasn’t against just any average 2A football team, either. Thomas got thrown to the wolves or, more accurately, the Rattlers. The Tanner Rattlers – eventual 2A state champions.
If Thomas had any illusions of pulling off some miracle, it dissipated quickly.
“I lasted five plays and got hurt,” Thomas said with a chuckle. It wasn’t funny then, but it is one of many memories he will take with him as he begins his fourth and final year as the Bobcat signal caller.
“I can’t believe it’s my senior year,” said Thomas, who has already committed to the University of North Alabama on a baseball scholarship. “It has flown by. I can remember talking to Coach Swinney in the eighth grade about playing varsity football – now, the end is here.”
Like all competitors, Thomas wants to be remember for something good – no, extraordinary.
“I want to leave a good legacy,” said Thomas. “I want this to the be the first team in a number of years to make some noise in the playoffs.
“Everybody remembers Brett Borden (former Bobcat quarterback 1999-2001) and that group because they won. They were competitive and beat some of the best teams in the state. That’s how I want to leave Phil Campbell.”
Thomas has grown into the role through the years as a signal caller and a leader. With a host of new skill position players surrounding him, that role will be more important this year than ever before.
“I take my role as a leader seriously,” said Thomas. “It’s nice to have other people count on you and depend on you.”
“I’ve always been bad about getting upset,” he added. “Now I recognize I need to always take a step back and realize how young we are. I want to help our young guys be better football players and better leaders. Everybody has to be on the same page if we are going to be successful.”
Thomas said he will miss many of the guys lost to graduation but knows this group has potential, and he will have to be patient and understanding.
“It’s crazy those guys are no longer here,” Thomas said. “I’ve basically handed off to, or thrown to, the same guys for two or three years. Now, it’s all new again. We just have to take it day-by-day and get comfortable with each other.”
With a baseball scholarship offer in hand to UNA, it would have been easy for Thomas to hang up the pads and not risk injury that might jeopardize his career on the diamond. But his competitive juices keep him going full speed.
“This is my last go around,” reflected Thomas. “Everything that I do this year will be the last time in high school. I want to soak it in and enjoy it because the memories will last a lifetime.
“I love baseball. That is my sport. But I love to compete,” he added. “I don’t know what I would do if I just played one sport. Every sport teaches you something different. They all feed off of each other. I think it is good for guys to play as many sports as possible because of the team concept and the lessons you learn.”
And don’t think his head coach isn’t thankful for that commitment.
“Peyton is a true leader. He is like a coach on the field,” said Bobcat head coach Ryan Swinney. “He does a great job of getting players lined up where they are supposed to be. It’s made my job a lot easier. He also knows how to improvise if I get distracted.”
Last year, when his teammate Joe Hardy went down with his second serious injury in two seasons, Swinney saw Thomas’ improvisation skills first-hand. As Swinney and other coaches were getting Hardy off the field, Thomas called his own play in the huddle and threw a touchdown pass.
“He likes to sling it downfield,” said Swinney. “So, when he got his shot, that’s what he did, and it worked.”
Swinney said he knows if his team is going to have a successful season this year, it will most likely hinge on the play of his veteran signal caller on game night and at practices – on and off the field.
“He will definitely have to step up this year with as many young guys as we have,” said Swinney. “He will have to have patience and encourage these guys. He has the leadership ability to do just that.”
Phil Campbell will play at Tharptown Friday night.