Texas Tech Recruiting: Players That Exceeded Expectations

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Nov 29, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; A view of the Texas Tech Red Raiders helmet before the game between the Baylor Bears and the Red Raiders at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Thomas

The craze of giving stars to high school recruits was not en-vogue when Zach Thomas signed with Texas Tech out of high school. But for perspective, one can read a 1994 article from the L.A. Times about Thomas and his brother playing together in the Cotton Bowl. When describing Thomas’ recruitment the article says, “people…said he was too small at 5-11 ¾ … and too slow… Texas and Texas A&M both said he didn’t size up, literally, so the college decision came down to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.’’ (Howard-Cooper) At the time, neither Texas Tech nor Oklahoma State had a nationally regarded football program so Thomas decided to stay close to home.

As we all know, Thomas became a football legend at Tech and in the NFL, and was recently selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Thomas was a two-time Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Year (1994 and 1995) and was a unanimous First Team All American in 1995.

Drafted in the 5th round by the Dolphins, Thomas ended his 13-year professional career with more tackles than any linebacker in the Hall of Fame at the time. He ranks sixth in NFL history for tackles by a linebacker.

The unheralded player from Pampa, Texas who was too small and too slow to play for Texas or A&M was selected for seven Pro Bowls and is a strong candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thomas is immortalized in Tech history for his interception to beat the Aggies (who probably didn’t think he was too small or too slow that day).

This single play turned the tide in the rivalry to Tech’s side sparking a decade of dominance against their hated in-state rivals.