Alvin Thomas, a graduate of , appeared in the Division III national playoffs in college football in 2009.
Less than two years later, the defensive lineman from Elkridge is making contributions for Division I Maryland of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“It was such a big change,” Thomas said of moving up to the major-college level. “Mostly just getting used to the size difference is the big thing. Obviously, the talent level changes. The big thing was getting used to the faster pace. Everyone is faster.”
So how did the 6-foot Thomas, who attended and , get from Division III Albright College in Reading, PA, to the Terps in College Park?
While playing football, track and lacrosse at , he attracted the attention of football coaches at Villanova, James Madison, Brown and Georgetown. But after graduating in 2008, he ended up at Albright since it offered an attractive financial package.
Thomas had 11.5 tackles as a freshman defensive end in 2008 and was the all-Middle Atlantic Conference defensive lineman of the year in 2009, when he had 31 tackles, with 10 sacks. Albright advanced to the Division III national quarterfinals before falling 55-3 to Mt. Union, the powerhouse from Ohio.
Thomas transferred to College Park in time for the fall semester of 2010. He sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules and served on the scout team defense in 2010 for the Terps.
This season Thomas, a defensive lineman who also plays special teams, saw action in six of the first seven games and had three tackles for the Terps.
“It felt like starting all over again. I was just here one semester, and then in January there were 13 new (coaches) that I had to get used to,” Thomas said. “The best way to impress them was to work as hard as I can.”
Thomas’ career goals go well beyond football.
He hopes to one day be a surgeon, an idea that came to him when he was in middle school.
His mother, Dianne Thomas, has worked in the past at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She has a nursing background with a focus on caring for the elderly. His brother, Eric, attends and used to play football.
Thomas’ hero is the noted Dr. Ben Carson, whom his mother ran into while working at Johns Hopkins. “In middle school, I wanted to be a doctor. I took a lot of biology classes in high school,” said Thomas. “I want to help the most people that I can.”
Pete Hughes, the longtime head football coach at Long Reach, said Thomas is the first football player from the school to play at the Division I level in college. The school opened in 1996.
"He was a big kid and he worked hard," said Hughes, who had Thomas in his program for four years. "Schools expressed an interest in him, but when signing date came around, there were no offers. He wanted to continue to play football. We went to spring practice at Maryland (earlier this year) and he was working so hard and impressing coaches."