BATON ROUGE, La. — Kardell Thomas is a 6-foot-4, 330-pound rising sophomore at Southern Lab University School. He boasts a grown-man frame and a baby face, not to mention a mean streak when he takes the field.
What you can’t see is that he’s a young man with a plan.
Thomas, the latest commitment in LSU’s 2019 class, has known where he’d be playing his college football for some time. Yeah, since he was 13 years old.
The mammoth in-state lineman instantly grabbed the attention of the Tigers’ coaches when he first participated in the team’s elite prospect camp as an eighth-grader. He earned his offer in June during the satellite camp in New Orleans and went into last month’s camp knowing that when he had the chance to sit down with coach Les Miles, he wouldn’t be able to hide his true intentions.
“When I went to the elite camp in eighth grade, I did good. I loved it and it made me realize that I wanted to be a Tiger,” Thomas told SEC Country.
“I love Coach Miles’ plan, to run the ball and keep it on the ground. What made me go to LSU is that it’s right there. I want to get in the system and work out with the guys and become a Tiger even before I’m there. I can do that here. When I’m at home, I’m watching the games, seeing the things they do, the offense they run. I see the things that they do and I picture myself doing it.”
The decision to commit
Thomas missed the first day of LSU’s elite prospect camp because he was elsewhere earning another offer.
Yes, the Louisiana native was in Tuscaloosa, Ala., working out at Alabama’s camp, where he procured the offer much to the liking of his mother, a noted fan of coach Nick Saban.
When the Thomases returned to Baton Rouge, the obvious topic of conversion at the dinner table was about what was going to happen Friday at LSU’s camp. Thomas left little for the imagination.
The Class of 2019 offensive lineman arrived on campus for the second day of LSU’s July prospect camp, competed in both sessions and drew praise from offensive line coach Jeff Grimes. According to Thomas, Grimes lauded him for his dominant one-on-one session, his speed (a 5-second 40), his footwork and strength.
Thomas’ dominant display led to that coveted closed-door meeting with Miles that evening when his lifelong dream became a reality.
“When he offered me at camp (in June), that was great. He (Miles) told me he wanted me to be a Tiger, so I’ve been thinking about it since then,” Thomas revealed. “When I came back from Alabama, I knew I was going to commit. My mother liked Coach Saban. Before I went to LSU, my father told me they’re going to ask you to commit. I said, ‘Dad, to be honest, I’m going to commit.’ When I went there and it actually happened, my mother decided we’re going to be Tiger family. We got purple jerseys made and everything.”
A fitting nickname
For now, Thomas, his mother and his father own customized LSU jerseys with “Thomas” imprinted on the back. That may need some tweaking by the time he arrives on campus.
After all, the big man has stumbled into a new nickname in recent weeks, which — in a way — is pretty fitting.
@True19s, an information source for rising sophomore prospects across the country, randomly tweeted out a photo of LSU’s newest 2019 pledge with the hashtag “Mr. Pancake.”
You don’t have to wait long before you witness Thomas living up to his nickname in the highlight tape pictured above. Already, it’s sticking, which is perfectly fine with the outstanding lineman who is hoping to build on that reputation this fall.
“True 19 watched my highlight tape then tagged me in the photo with a shoutout to Kardell Thomas, Mr. Pancake. Since then, everyone starting using that as my name,” Thomas laughed. “Every play this year, every two-on-two, I’m going to be dominating. I’m dominating everything, and everything in my way is getting demolished. I’m trying to put everything on my back and running with it.”
Thomas has embraced the nickname, as well as the pressure of exceeding already lofty expectations.
The sophomore sensation helped Southern Lab capture a state championship last year, and in hoping to repeat, plans to further his cement his name as the best offensive lineman in the 2019 class by season’s end.
After all, it’s only natural someone nicknamed Mr. Pancake is the best as his craft.
“I feel like it’s my time to come out,” he stated. “I plan on being No. 1 in the nation like (4-star 2017 tackle) Trey Smith. I want to be dominant and I’m ready to bring the best class to LSU. I just want to make something happen … and beat ‘Bama.”
Master of crafts
As a 15-year-old that stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 330 pounds, Thomas is already bigger than 2017 LSU offensive guard commits Edward Ingram and Saahdiq Charles. He could be destined to follow in their footsteps just as Miles laid out to him during their sit-down meeting last month.
“In Coach Miles’ office, he compared to me Trai Turner,” Thoams recalled. “He told me I can be a great athlete here. He also talked to me about playing tight end a little bit, too.”
Thomas seems destined to play tackle or guard at LSU in three years, but he certainly does not want to limit himself to just an offensive lineman. He’s truly taken to Miles’ promise that he could see some snaps at tight end or even compete on the defensive side of the ball, too.
The Southern Lab product will see extra snaps at defensive tackle during the 2016 season and could eventually pursue that position in the SEC. Whether it’s offensive or defensive line for Thomas, it will be difficult to convince him to give up his dreams as a pure athlete.
“I think I can get a goal-line play or two,” he smiled.
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.