Still riding high after hauling in his first career touchdown catch, CT Thomas got a text from a friend who definitely could understand his joy following Boise State’s 56-20 win at Troy.
That friend, Laviska Shenault, is one of his oldest, and the reason we know Thomas as CT.
“Bless’m,” the message said.
Popularized on the recent season of “Hard Knocks,” that’s the phrase Browns receiver Jarvis Landry says when he burns a defensive back.
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Both sophomores, Thomas had scored on a 53-yard deep strike against the Trojans, and the previous night, Shenault scored his first receiving touchdown for Colorado. Thomas watched that play in Alabama and made sure to let his friend know he saw it.
The pair have been friends half their lives now, and when they first met in fifth grade playing for the Oak Cliff Titans in Dallas, Cartrell Thomas got a nickname.
Watching the speedy Thomas, Shenault’s mother, Annie, said, “That’s a cold Titan right there.”
“She’s pretty bad with names, she saw this kid running around, making plays, and it fit with his initials, so ‘Cold Titan,’ it kind of stuck,” Shenault said.
Annie surely had no idea she created a bit of an alter ego for Thomas, who went on to star at Lancaster High while Laviska was at DeSoto High, about 10 miles apart.
“It’s just kind of a part of me now,” Thomas said. “CT is more of my athletic side, lets me know to always grind hard. It stands for something … always reminds me of where I came from.”
One of two true freshman wide receivers to play last season, Thomas had 15 receptions for 121 yards. He had 11 catches in the second half of the year, including a pivotal third down that kept the final scoring drive alive in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Part of a deep corps of receivers, Thomas was among the most consistent during fall camp.
“I don’t know if CT had a ball on the ground that was actually catchable,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
Thomas has five catches for 96 yards in the Broncos’ two games this season, but it was that first catch of the year that will stick with him forever.
On a third-and-10, Thomas flew past Troy defensive back Will Sunderland (who transferred from Oklahoma State) on a one-on-one matchup, and Rypien hit him right in stride.
Thomas may not have said “bless’m” as he ran past, but he did use the Trojans’ new 35-by-90-foot videoboard to his advantage, looking up to see how much distance he had as he raced to the end zone.
“It was just a blessing, a great throw by Brett, he made it easy,” Thomas said. “... I looked up and was like, ‘OK, I’m good now,’ and just scored.”
On an offense with plenty of offensive weapons, Thomas has been sure-handed (four of his catches have been on third down, all resulting in first downs), but also can deliver as a deep threat.
“That’s my son,” redshirt junior and fellow Dallas native Akilian Butler said with a smile. “He brings quickness … he’s very decisive. Speed, that’s what he brings to the table. I almost beat him to the end zone, I was so excited when he scored.”
At 5-foot-8, 171 pounds, Thomas brings that infectious, Kevin Hart-type humor and energy as the Broncos’ shortest player. He was even smaller when he first arrived on campus a little more than a year ago, weighing just 148 pounds. But underestimate him at your own risk.
“I feel like I’m quicker than a lot of my opponents, but I try to beat them with my mind, study their habits, run good routes to get open even if I’m not the biggest guy,” Thomas said.
Almost a decade after they frustrated grade schoolers in the Metroplex, Thomas and Shenault are doing the same to college defenses. Shenault is currently the nation’s leading receiver, with 21 receptions for 388 yards. He makes sure to keep an eye out for his fellow former Titan.
“We’re still pretty close. I like that we’ve both got the same focus,” Shenault said. “CT is the kind of guy I’d want around, a guy who is going to work hard, but he’s also really funny. I’m not surprised at all he’s doing well there.”
FIVE QUESTIONS WITH CT THOMAS
What is your favorite movie?
“It would have to be ‘Love And Basketball.’ I like how they grew up together, loved the same sport, stuck through thick and thin. I’d love it if they made a sequel. I also like “Friday Night Lights,” how a team comes together, it’s Texas football. I loved the line, ‘If you wanna win, put Boobie in.’ ”
What teammate would win American Ninja Warrior?
“Besides myself, I’d go with (safety) DeAndre Pierce. He’s got a quick twitch about him, his awareness is crazy, so he could see all the obstacles ahead.”
What is your ideal postgame meal?
“Some kind of Mexican food. Soft tacos, fajitas, not too spicy, a little picante sauce would be really good.”
Whataburger or In-N-Out?
“A lot of my teammates are Cali guys and we always have that argument. The Patty Melt, there’s nothing like it, the chicken biscuit in the morning, it’s crazy. In-N-Out isn’t bad, but Whataburger is way better.”
You find a book, and it’s your entire life story. Do you read past today?
“I’m kind of nosy, but I don’t want to rush the future. It’s crazy I’m already a sophomore. As much as I’d want to know, I’d pass. I’d put it in a safe and forget the code so I don’t look.”
No. 17 BOISE STATE AT No. 24 OKLAHOMA STATE
When: 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium (60,000; artificial turf)
TV: ESPN (Adam Amin, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 2-0 (beat UConn 62-7 on Saturday); Oklahoma State 2-0 (beat South Alabama 55-13 on Saturday)
Series: First meeting (first regular season game for BSU vs. Big 12, 2-1 in bowls)
Vegas line: Oklahoma State by 2
Weather: Mid-80s, partly cloudy, 60 percent humidity