Injuries have been a big issue for USC football. Recently, CB Anthony Brown underwent season-ending surgery after breaking his ankle versus Cal. Injuries have been piling up since the Trojans were in spring camp.

Most recently, line backer Marquis Simmons was deemed out for the season due to a neck injury, along with tight end Christian Thomas, 19, who underwent hip surgery last month. Man Behind the Facemask highlights Thomas, to get a perspective of a player hungry to return to the playing field.

“I’m very eager to get on the field and show my talents, and be a factor in the offensive scheme,” says Thomas. “For me, [players] finally realize that they’re playing college football when they score their first touchdown. It still doesn’t feel like I've experience the college football experience until I get a touchdown. Even though I’m on special teams, it’s just not the same feeling.”

Although he’s an Oakland, Calif. native, Thomas’ family now resides in Palmdale, Calif., where he attended Highland High School where, ironically, football wasn’t a priority at the time.

“I actually never thought about playing college football until the scholarships started pouring in,” Thomas says. “I got looked at by more people, and I was in contact with coaches from different schools.”

Thomas’ talent allowed him to play in the Army All-American Game where he teamed up with current USC players: D.J. Morgan, Kyle Prater, Dillon Baxter and Robert Woods. Miami, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA and USC all tried to recruit him. Although he could have went anywhere, USC seemed to be the best fit.

“I sat down to talk to my parents and we decided USC, because of the academics and the history of winning championships here,” Thomas says. “For me, not winning a championship in high school, it just motivates me to strive harder in college to obtain that goal.”

Thomas and the rest of the Trojans will get their chance when the bowl ban is lifted next season, allowing them to be able to compete for the Pac-12 championship crown.

“I think it’s important because USC has a tradition of winning, and it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t take the championship for the years to come,” Thomas says with a laugh.

USC football players are seen as celebrities on campus, and although some love the spotlight, Thomas just likes relaxing and hanging out.

“You get noticed a lot, and I mean a lot. USC fans are cool. You have a lot of diversity here and support; it’s fun. But off the field I like to sleep, listen to music, watch movies and go to places I’ve never been before. In the future I would like to travel to Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Brazil.”

Thomas is currently majoring in Communications and is undecided on what he wants to do after graduation. His philosophy on going to the NFL is simple: If it happens, it happens. He stresses that if he had a good shot of going early in the draft, then he would go, but it’s not his No. 1 priority.

“Everybody is here for a different reason – some are here for business, some come to be anchors and some come for football,” he says, “that’s what USC produces: professionals. And that’s what people want to accomplish while they’re here.”

Thomas suffered a hip injury during his junior year in high school, but never grasped the severity of it until his sophomore year of college. After the ASU game, Thomas realized the pain he once felt had become worse. Nevertheless, after surgery he claims being out for the season is making him a better overall player.

“It helped me get a different perspective. You get more of a coach’s perspective and see what you have to do to be better. As a player, you just think, ‘OK, I have to block this player,’ but the coaches see things differently, and while on the sideline you see it too,” Thomas says. “I learned that technique overpowers talent in the long run.”

Luckily for Thomas, he still has three years of playing time left to fully develop.

“Next season fans can expect exciting plays, because that’s what I’m here for … I’m ready.”

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