Matthew Thomas continues tradition

MIAMI -- It's been a good November for Miami Booker T. Washington linebacker Matthew Thomas.

Last week, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior moved up to No. 8 overall in the ESPN 150 and was deemed one of nine five-star recruits. This week his team starts the Florida Class 4A playoffs as the top seed in the state.

And Thursday, the No. 1 outside linebacker in the ESPN 150 received his 2013 Under Armour All-America Game as part of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour.

"It's a real exciting honor to be part of the Under Armour game and have a chance to compete against the top players," Thomas said. "The main reason I chose the game is because of the competition and having a chance to practice in Orlando and be there with my family."

Joining Thomas for the week of practice at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and the Jan. 4 game at Tropicana Field will be Booker T. Washington head coach Tim Harris.

The game is very familiar to Harris, who coached in the 2008 Under Armour All-America Game that featured his son Brandon Harris, who's now with the Houston Texans.

"I remember that game so fondly because it was a great opportunity for Brandon to meet these other great players and bond with them," Harris said. "Brandon was able to develop close relationships with guys like A.J. Green and Da'Quan Bowers and Julio Jones that week and those relationships have stayed strong through the years.

"And I hope Matthew can take advantage of the same opportunity to meet players of similar talent that understand what each other are going through in terms of the recruiting process and being the big man on campus. It should be a memorable experience for him. I'm going to try my best to help him enjoy it."

On the field Thomas has made a major impact as a senior with over 60 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, two interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.

Thomas, who considers Miami, Florida State and Alabama as his leaders at this point, hopes his best games are ahead of him.

"I'm still trying to step my game up for the playoffs," Thomas added. "Last year we should have won the state championship but we messed things up at the end. This year I'm going to bring my 'A' game from start to finish."

Harris is happy to hear of Thomas' plans and feels like he is continuing to develop and figure out how good he is as a player.

"Athletically I would say Matthew is where we want him to be," Harris explained. "He's got tremendous skills and he's working to get the most out of that talent.

"From a leadership standpoint we're still trying to get Matthew to be more of a vocal leader. He's naturally a quiet kid that wants to lead by example, and that's fine, but in order for him to get guys to play at his level he still needs to be more of a vocal presence."

While Thomas is still learning to find his voice, there's little doubt that his play will have everyone aware when he is on the field.

"I plan to be at my best for the Under Armour game," Thomas explained. "I know that it's going to be the best of the best and people are going to be coming out and challenging me. I'm looking forward to seeing what they've got."