Octavius Thomas has a handful of nicknames, from OT to Overtime to “that kid with bleached hair.”
Myrtle Beach football coach Mickey Wilson calls his linebacker something else.
“I think he’s one of the best football players in the state of South Carolina, without a doubt,” Wilson said.
Thomas has shown once again that he is one of the predominant defensive players in the area, if not – as Wilson says –the state. Friday night, when Myrtle Beach plays fellow undefeated region team Socastee, the senior could be the difference in making sure the Seahawks’ chance of a third state title in five years remains as strong as possible.
The winner immediately has the upper hand in terms of a first-place region finish and accompanying No. 1 seed in the playoffs. This year, that top seed comes with the benefit of at least three home postseason games, a major boost in making it to the Class AAA state championship.
So, yes, this one has serious meaning for the rest of the way.
And what better player to be in the middle of it all than Thomas, a guy with Myrtle Beach football in his DNA.
Legacy of titles
There’s a photo floating around of Octavius Thomas from just after Myrtle Beach’s 2008 state title win over Chester.
Back then, Thomas was an eighth grade ball boy, and his older brother, PJ, was helping the Seahawks earn the Class AAA championship as a back-up safety. For Perry Thomas, though, it was important for Octavius to be a part of the team.
“It’s really special to be a homegrown product,” Perry Thomas said. “When I was a little boy, all we dreamed about was going and watching Myrtle Beach football. You knew you were going to go play for the Seahawks.”
That’s exactly what Perry did.
He spent his high school years playing for the late Doug Shaw, and as a starter on defense himself, contributed to the Seahawks’ back-to-back state titles in 1981-1982. It was something Perry Thomas wanted his kids to be a part of.
First, PJ played a role in that 2008 championship, then started as the Seahawks finished as runners-up in 2009.
Then came Octavius, the family member who early on showed promise of being the best of the three.
“It means a lot. It’s set a standard of what I have to achieve,” Octavius Thomas said. “If I don’t, I look at it as kind of a failure. My dad won state championships. My brother won another one. Now I have to win another one.”
As a sophomore in 2010, Thomas accomplished his first. He led the Grand Strand in tackles and helped shore up a defense that was generally overlooked by a future Notre Dame quarterback on the offensive side of the ball.
Still, Thomas started to establish himself as a top playmaker, the kind of guy opponents had to be able to account for on every play. He started to stand out more, and it made 2011 hurt so much more.
Thomas, plagued by a back injury, missed the majority of the year. When he did return, he wasn’t in game shape, and he was even more frustrated.
This season, the anxiety has been limited.
Thomas has already put up 87 total tackles (an average of nearly 15 per game), has 17 tackles for loss, recorded eight sacks, forced six fumbles, recovered another one and picked off a pass. Translation, he’s the kind of player offensive coordinators hate to see.
Even if college recruiters aren’t exactly banging down his door.
The next steps
It makes sense that Octavius Thomas will catch on somewhere.
PJ Thomas is now playing at NCAA Division-III Averett (Va.), and a number of similar-level programs have already expressed interest in Octavius. He’s under consideration for one of the state’s two all-star football games.
The reason there isn’t more college noise, Wilson said, is simple.
“To me, it’s sad that college coaches just look at size,” he said. “I think he’s by far one of the best in South Carolina, and I think it’s sad he hasn’t gotten any offers yet because he can flat out play.”
At 5-foot-9, Thomas doesn’t scare anyone coming off the bus. The bleached hair his dad is sometimes responsible for cutting might look more at place at the skate park adjacent to Doug Shaw Memorial.
The problem is that Octavius Thomas was almost destined to excel inside the football stadium.
The love of Myrtle Beach football between Perry and his sons was so strong that initially both PJ and Octavius offered to give their dad – who played when the school did not award championship rings – the ones they had earned. He refused, and last year, a group of players from the ’81-’82 teams got together and bought them on their own. They used similar molds to the ones Myrtle Beach purchased after the 2010 title season, and it further fulfilled the duality between Perry and Octavius Thomas.
After all, Perry still has one more title than his son.
“The hardest thing is trying to have a conversation with him about who has the most rings or just wins,” Octavius said between laughs. “He doesn’t rub it in – too much.”
Contact IAN GUERIN at firstname.lastname@example.org.