Big Cat‘ can stop it up the middle


A strange name has been echoed through stadiums more and more after a tackle is made. That name belongs to a player who plays a position of little recognition.

That player is none other than No. 78, Hollis Thomas.

Thomas, a sophomore nose guard, is now sixth on the team in tackles (49), and the only defensive lineman in the top ten in team tackles. Thomas does not take all the credit himself, though.

“I get help from the defensive ends. They keep the running backs cutting in towards me,” Thomas said. “I’m usually not the first one there, they (running backs) just keep cutting into me.”

The nose guard is usually in the middle of every play, because he’s usually lined up directly across from the ball. Thomas said it takes discipline, strength, quickness and tolerance of holding in the middle to play nose guard.

“My strengths are my power and my quickness,” said the six-foot, 300-pounder. “I could improve on my weight by losing five or ten pounds to get down to 290.”

Thomas has been showing his power and quickness this season. Through nine games, he is second in tackles for a loss with six and has two sacks, two pass blocks, and even recorded a safety against Southwestern Louisiana. In that USL game, Thomas tied Tony Smith and Gerald Nickleberry with a game-high eight tackles.

Thomas started the season as a backup but soon won the starting job. This season has been a constant battle at nose guard between Troy Seabrook, Mike Adams and Thomas.

“The competition is stiff because all three of us are good,” commented Thomas. “I do real good when there is competition though.”

Coming into the season, Thomas had the same goals as everyone else—to get to a bowl game. He was also looking to become All-Big West.

While All-Big West isn’t totally out of the question, the chance at a bowl game is, but Thomas is still working on playing good.

“Now I just try to help the team get wins and play the best I can,” he said.

Thomas is confident he has contributed to the defense’s improvement this season.

“I feel I’ve played my best. That’s all I can do is play my best, and do my assignments,” he said. “That’s the only way you can contribute to the defense.”

There are two games left in this season, but Thomas still has two more years to play. That means he has two more years to improve as a player and two more shots at helping NIU make it to a bowl game, and that’s what he looks forward to next season.

“I’ll try to help win more games and to win the conference,” he said. “I also want to be a bigger factor on our pass rush and get more sacks on the quarterbacks.”

Thomas says he plays better with competition so he should improve the next two seasons. Adams will be a senior next year and Seabrook will be a junior so both will still be around to give Thomas a run for his money for the starting nose guard duties.

With that kind of pressure the “Big Cat,” as he is called by his teammates, may turn out to be a good defensive leader in the years to come.