Mark Edwards: Gamecocks kicker Thomas a hero once again
by Mark Edwards
medwards@annistonstar.com
Sep 15, 2013 | 1124 views |  0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jacksonville State's Griffin Thomas kicks a game-winning field goal against UNA. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Jacksonville State's Griffin Thomas kicks a game-winning field goal against UNA. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
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JACKSONVILLE ­— Griffin Thomas didn’t begin playing football until his senior season in high school, but Jacksonville State certainly must be happy he found his way onto the gridiron.

Thomas, a former prep soccer star, is the place-kicker, and as we all know, the kickers usually are the hero or the goat in close games. Sometimes both.

Even so, in the past couple of years, Thomas has served as the JSU hero more often than not. That includes Saturday night when he kicked a school-record five field goals in a 24-21 double-overtime win over North Alabama.

The senior missed only once, and that was a 50-yarder that was blocked. Maybe this one never would’ve gotten to overtime if a UNA defender hadn’t gotten a hand on it.

Last year, Thomas beat Chattanooga with a 37-yard field goal on the last play of the game. Later, he hit a 44-yarder in overtime to beat Tennessee State. And in a 38-35 win over Murray State, he kicked a 38-yarder with fewer than nine minutes to play. That stood up as the game-winner, as no more points were scored the rest of the way.

Thomas seems like the perfect guy for his job. He calls himself “even-keeled,” and that’s apparent when he speaks.

When asked about all the important field goals in Saturday’s game, he deadpanned, “It was a busy night, to say the least.”

He didn’t get too excited after making a 50-yarder in the first quarter, even though it was one of only five field goals of 50 yards or more in school history.

He didn’t get too down after the blocked kick.

As for overtime, Thomas was willing to admit it was a “nerve-wracking” situation.

But he added, “It doesn’t get any more comfortable because it’s overtime, and you know you’re going to get to kick.”

JSU practices these situations. It works on giving Thomas chances from various lengths to try field goals in limited-time scenarios.

Head coach Bill Clark has the team work on these things at various times in practice. Sometimes, it’s at the start. Sometimes, it’s in the middle. Sometimes, Clark makes Thomas try one from 55 yards or longer.

Clark said Thomas never disappoints.

Of course, Saturday’s game “wasn’t just like practice,” Thomas said with a slight smile.

But he added that in another way, it was. He ran onto the field, got set and kicked the ball toward the uprights. And as usual, the ball went through.

Thomas has given JSU its most consistent offensive force this season. He hasn’t missed an extra point, and in field goals, he has made eight while missing only the one that was blocked.

A year ago, he missed nine field goals and a couple of extra points in what was a pretty good season.

He said his philosophy is to worry about the kick that he is attempting at the moment. He doesn’t worry about a missed kick or what might come down the road.

So far, he does that as well as anybody. And that’s awfully good for Jacksonville State.

Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at medwards@annistonstar.com or 256-235-3570. Follow on Twitter @MarkSportsStar.

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