Kardell Thomas hasn’t even begun his senior year of high school yet, and he’s already an Internet sensation.
Scroll through Twitter or YouTube long enough, and you’re bound to find a clip of Thomas, a 6-foot-4, 320-pound mauler from Southern Lab, dominating opposing pass rushers. It doesn’t matter if it’s a clip from Friday night action in pads or weekend camp work in shorts and cleats; doesn’t matter if it’s against a small private school lineman with no future after high school or a fellow blue-chip recruit. When Thomas lines up across from an opponent, he dominates, in ways that go viral online.
Sheer dominance has a way of catching eyes.
Thomas also has a way of catching ears. He hopped on Tiger Rag Radio in March to break down the latest in his recruitment, how he deals with Twitter trolls, and how he is working to recruit a loaded Louisiana 2019 class to join him in Baton Rouge.
Editor’s note: This story appears in the April 2018 issue of Tiger Rag Extra. View it online here for free or pick one up at newsstands across Baton Rouge.
Tiger Rag: You were an early commit to LSU. Why so?
Kardell Thomas: It’s just the history of it. It was kind of a personal thing. My dad, he played there for a minute, then he got hurt. I kinda wanted to finish the legacy out.
TR: When did it click for you? When did you know you had a chance to be a five-star talent who could be one of the best players in the country?
KT: I’m not going to lie: probably since I was about five. The way I play, I always knew there was something about my game and the way I play. My dad always instilled in me that if I want it, I have to go get it. So I’ve been working toward that ever since.
TR: How much do you look at recruiting rankings: where LSU stacks up across the country, where you stack up among other linemen? Do you pay much attention?
KT: Yes sir, most definitely. When you’re the No. 1 overall lineman, No. 1 at your position, you gotta make sure you stay on top. With the rankings, they can be kind of shaky sometimes, so I just make sure I’m grinding. But I do pay attention to it, because I do want to see, if they do have some ranked over me, why they’re ranked over me. And if I see them at a camp, I want to know their face, so I can go against them – especially if it’s a defensive lineman.
TR: You’re a really great Twitter follow, because a lot of guys at your age going through the recruiting process, they’re quiet. They don’t interact a ton on social media. If they do, it’s mostly with friends. You interact with fans, you interact with former LSU players. I’m curious: what’s your approach to that? What do you want to communicate to people who interact with you on Twitter?
KT: I just try to be an inspiration. Some guys feel like they’re too good for people. I feel like I’m better than no one. I’m no better than the guy standing next to me. I just like to talk, interact with people. People might love talking to somebody they look up to. There’s probably a lot of kids who look up to me, and people who would die if I gave them a ‘hey’ back. I’m not one of those guys who thinks he’s too good for people.
TR: I get a lot of negative comments on Twitter, from other school’s fans or LSU fans who didn’t like something I wrote. As a high-profile guy, I imagine you get some, too, but also – you’re 6-4, 320…clearly you can take all of your Twitter followers one-on-one. How much negativity do you hear on that platform and how much do you filter it out?
KT: To be honest with you, I’d probably rather get negative comments. If I get negative comments, it usually isn’t about me. It’s about LSU. And to that, we’re just going to have to show people when the time comes. I don’t get too much negative toward me. If I do, my mom and my dad are on Twitter, so if they see it, they’ll go after it. I’m a little more quiet. It doesn’t really affect me too much. Everybody feels like they have an opinion, and it’s probably not right.
TR: There always seems to be a ringleader in a recruiting class that tries to get uncommitted players to join that school they’re planning on attending. How has that process been, because you’ve been that guy?
KT: A lot of guys will tell you something, but at the end of the day, they have their own mind. I just try my best to put LSU in their ear and let them know: We’re building something here with this class. The guys we can get, it’ll be great. People like to bandwagon certain schools. I just say: come build here. And we don’t have too much building to do. It’s not like we’re coming off a bad season.
TR: There’s been a tradition at LSU where, when there’s been the potential for great in-state classes, they do rally around. I think back to the 2011 class that called themselves ‘The Fam.’ There seems to be that opportunity with this 2019 group, with all the talent. Can this be that sort of class? Do you feel a bond with some of the Louisiana and Baton Rouge kids?
KT: Yes sir, most definitely. We know each other. We’ve probably been knowing each other for a while. We’ll see each other and track meets and stuff like that. Most of us are at all the camps, too. We’ve built a bond, and we’re trying to stick together. But like I said, people know where their heart’s at. I feel like we’re going to get a lot of top guys in this class.
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