Admiral now Ivy Lion

Thomas adjusting to Columbia, NYC

It would be impressive enough for one Ivy League school to offer a Farragut High School student/athlete a scholarship.

However, former Admirals football running back star Tanner Thomas, FHS Class of 2016, also “ran” up the grade point average and test scores high enough to get offers from six Ivy League schools.

“I also had the University of Pennsylvania, I had Princeton, Yale, I had Brown and then I had Dartmouth,” said Tanner, who chose Columbia and scored two touchdowns for the Lions [3-7 record] as a second-string freshman running back last fall.

This historic and internationally acclaimed New York campus, based “in the heart of Manhattan,” was Thomas’ choice “because of the young, energetic coaching staff and the [overall] football program. And just being in the environment of this city and just knowing that there’s so many opportunities out there for me,” he said. “… It’s a very compact campus, not a spread-out campus at all. Everything is relatively close and everything is within very easy walking distance. It’s not a very big school, so you know a lot of the people. I know a lot of the people in my freshman class already.”

On the Lions’ team, “Two of my other teammates that are also freshman are from Tennessee, one’s from Nashville and one’s from Memphis,” Thomas said. “And we’ve become close and bonded really well.”

Growing up in Karns before moving to Farragut his freshman year at FHS, Thomas admitted New York City was “a huge” culture shock.

“Obviously there’s a lot of diversity there, and you learn a lot. … Adjusting to other people’s way of life,” he said.

Overall, Thomas’ Columbia experience “is definitely a challenge, but I’m loving it so far,” he said.

“It’s balancing the academic and athletic aspect, and it’s top-tier academics you know,” added Thomas, a political science major who is strongly considering a career as a financial attorney. “Football is very time-consuming, probably takes up eight hours a day.”

The only short day is game-day Saturdays, with the season running from August through the regular season finale in mid- to late-November [no playoff games or bowl opportunities in the Ivy League].

Helping with that balancing act, Thomas credits FHS teachers and staff “a ton” for helping to prepare him for the rigors of an Ivy League student-athlete.

“Farragut did a great job with all the teachers that helped me through the process. And also my coaches helping me out with everything, including about life, whether it’s school or football,” Thomas said. “Farragut is top[ranked] in the state for their academics, so those classes really helped prepare me a lot and I’m really thankful for that.”

Gaining 107 yards on 34 carries with those two touchdowns, “I was second-string rotating with the first string every game,” Thomas, 19, said.

Thomas said the football adjustment to college “has been huge, the game is so much faster and the players are just really, really smart guys. They know how to play the game of football.

“… And the physicality of the game is so much different,” he added. “But at the end of fall camp [in August] “I was proving myself pretty well, I beat out about four other running backs who were upperclassmen. … I worked my tail off, studied the playbook.

“Hard work pays off.”

Playing in nine of his team’s 10 games last fall, “I think my chances are pretty high that I’ll be starting” next season, Thomas said.