July 18, 2010

Safety commit wants to help build Wave class

A coach will tell you that every commitment is a crucial one.

But the newest member of Tulane's 2011 class caused some extra excitement amongst coaches and fans alike.

It's not just what Renaldo Thomas brings to the field that has those around Tulane excited about its eighth commitment.

"They sounded pretty happy when I let them know yesterday," Thomas said. "It just felt right and it's the place for me."

Sure, the 6-foot-4 safety may be the most naturally talented player to pledge to the Green Wave in coach Bob Toledo's tenure, but it's what Thomas can bring with him Uptown which could reap the most benefits for a program hoping to change its fortune.

The St. Augustine product is the third commitment from New Orleans (second from St. Aug with Lawrence Burl) to join the 2011 class and doesn't plan on being the last.

Tulane's recruiting board is chock full of New Orleans prospects, including fellow Purple Knights wide receiver Mark Edwards and offensive tackle Jonah Austin - key targets for the Wave's New Orleans recruiting specialist Jason Rollins.

The staff and Rollins have some help now, in the form of Thomas, who said he's going to work to build up the class around him and change the direction of Green Wave football.

"I want to be a part of turning Tulane around into a really winning program," Thomas said. "We are going to try and take it to a whole other level. For real, we are going to try and take it to the top and it will probably take some really good players working together in order to do that.

"I want to help bring them here and do anything to be a part of winning teams to Tulane."

He spurned several high-profile programs on his way to Tulane, passing on offers from LSU, Arkansas, Michigan, Oklahoma State and several others to try and build his hometown school into a winner.

The long, rangy, hard-hitter with a well-publicized knack for controlling a secondary wasn't concerned about the perceived prestige of the football program when choosing a school.

He just wanted a place that made him happy.

"I went over to camp at LSU this weekend, and just realized that I wanted to be at Tulane," Thomas said. "It's a place that works well for me because I want to play football and baseball and they want to me to do both as well. They seemed like the only school that was really serious about letting me do full-time on both."

While those statements are music to the ears of those around Tulane, there's still one lingering issue creeping in the periphery.

Thomas, a hard-throwing pitcher who plans to join the Wave baseball team, will be eligible for the Major League Baseball amateur draft next June and could opt to go pro if he's offered a sizable contract.

"That's something I have to deal with when the time comes," Thomas said. "But I'm pretty sure if I were to do that, coach Rollins and the rest of the coaches would understand it. We already talked about it and they know the whole situation.

"But I am planning on going to school because that way I get to play football too and I get to be a college athlete. That's what I want to do and I want to do it at Tulane. I'm excited to get it going."

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