If you spend any time around Tre Thomas’ mom, you undoubtedly know he has a chance to play in the National Football League.
Since May, the former Overland High School star linebacker’s mom has been spreading the word around town at restaurants, the grocery store, wherever: her son has a chance to make it with the Indianapolis Colts.
Thomas just smiles and laughs at how much she talks about it, but it is the truth. The 23-year-old has his dreams in front of him.
“I let my mom soak in the moment and let her be happy,” Thomas told the Sentinel in a recent interview before he departed for the start of Colts’ training camp July 21 in Westfield, Indiana.
“She tells all her friends,” he added with a smile. “We’re just randomly out to dinner and she’ll just walk up to somebody and tell them. I have to tell her ‘Mom, it’s getting out of hand, it’s getting out of hand.’
“My family is definitely supportive and very excited right now for the things to come.”
What is to come for Thomas is yet another chance to prove himself, which he’s been doing at every level he’s ever played at in one particular way: with an Energizer Bunny-like effort.
The 6-foot-3, 226-pounder had an outstanding senior season at Colorado State in which he started 10 of the Rams’ 12 games and broke the 100-tackle mark for the first time.
That and an admittedly rushed performance at CSU’s Pro Day in March wasn’t enough for Thomas to get selected in April’s NFL draft, but he got invited to rookie minicamps in consecutive weeks by Indianapolis and the New Orleans Saints.
The Colts’ camp came first and Thomas knew he would never make it to the Saints.
“I told my agent that whichever team I’m going to first, I’m going to make that team,” Thomas said. “I was going to put my mind to it and get it done and it ended up happening.”
So how did Thomas separate himself from the many other hopefuls in the Colts’ camp?
With the uncommon max effort he displayed at every level he’s played at, including Colorado State, where coach Mike Bobo told the Loveland Reporter-Herald in 2017 that Thomas was “one of our workout kings that can run as long as anybody, and as far as anybody.”
Thomas’ favorite player growing up was Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens — for whom he wore No. 52 as a senior at Overland and during his career at Colorado State — who was also known for all-out effort.
“You pretty much make yourself stand out with your work ethic and your effort,” Thomas said. “I feel like everything else can be taught except effort, so I just make sure my effort is 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. That’s the way you can make yourself stand out.”
Thomas more than stood out in his time at Overland under former head coach Seth Replogle, who always spoke glowingly about his tenacity and leadership abilities.
After a senior season in which he racked up a stunning 219 tackles (189 of them solo) — doing it against the likes of higher profile programs in the Centennial League such as Cherry Creek and Grandview — Replogle couldn’t overstate Thomas’ contributions.
“Tre had the most dominating season anybody around here has had,” Replogle said at the time. “I’ve never coached a kid like him before.”
Thomas had many options when it came to playing college football, but he ended up at Colorado State so he could stay close to family.
They were what kept him grounded.
Now, he is off on his own as a professional trying to make the roster of a team that is coming off an outstanding 10-6 season and berth in the AFC playoffs.
The Colts feature an All-Pro in Darius Leonard, another returning 100-plus tackler in Anthony Walker and a collection of draft picks and other young talent — none with more than three seasons of NFL experience — in a linebacking corps still looking for playmakers.
“The GM said this year is going to be the hardest year ever to make the team because the expectations are so high,” Thomas said. “Which they should be. I wouldn’t want to be with a team where expectations are so low.”
Through the process of navigating the often cutthroat professional world, Thomas has been texting former CSU teammate Zack Golditch — another former Aurora star at Gateway currently with the Kansas City Chiefs — for advice.
He will also be keeping an eye on developments at another NFL training camp, as his longtime roommate and fellow linebacker at CSU, Josh Watson, has an opportunity with the Broncos.
If (when) he makes his way in the professional world, Thomas is equipped with the upbringing to not let it go to his head.
“The first thing I’m definitely going to do is nothing,” Thomas said. “I’m not going to do anything with any money, I’m just going to let it sit and get to studying plays. Money is definitely a benefit and a little motivation, but at the same time you want to be in the league and be recognized with some of the greatest players.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports