Elon's Jaylan Thomas Lights Up A Room--And Opposing Defenses

Diversity defines Elon running back Jaylan Thomas, in a variety of ways. 

“Certain backs have certain skill sets, but with Jaylan, you’ve got to be prepared to defend it all and the whole field,” Phoenix head coach Tony Trisciani said. “He has a very diverse skill set.” 

Thomas debuted last season rushing for 761 yards on just 115 carries, a 6.6-per carry clip. He caught seven passes for another 71 yards, and scored five total touchdowns. Trisciani said in 2019, the Phoenix coaching staff expects more, commensurate with Thomas evolving into a true every-down back. 

“He’s big enough to break tackles. He’s fast enough to hit a home run. He’s big enough to block on third down,” Trisciani rattled off. “When you gameplan for a kid like Jaylan Thomas, you’ve got to be prepared for everything.”

The multifaceted nature of Thomas’ game translates to his demeanor. Based on his punishing running style and the positive aura those who have been around him described, the phrase that might best summarize Thomas on gameday is killing ‘em with kindness. 

The 2018 Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Freshman of the Year arrives to the Phoenix football facilities each day with a smile, according to Trisciani. Once he dons his helmet and pads, however, Thomas isn’t exactly Mr. Nice Guy. 

Not to opposing defenses, anyway. He carries the ball with tenacity and breaks tackle with a combination of elusive, speed and strength. 

No doubt about it, when Thomas is on the field, he’s a bad man. But it’s positive energy that fuels this cornerstone of Elon’s 2019 CAA ambitions.

The attitude Trisciani describes as a defining quality of the star running back is nothing new in his college career. Sean Calhoun, Thomas’ head coach at Carrollton High School in Georgia, described a similar radiance that powered the Trojans during the back’s prep days. 

“He’s a great kid,” Calhoun said. “He’s 100 times better human being than he is a football player. … He’s different. That’s what Jaylan had. He loved the weight room, loved watching film, and what a great personality.” 

When his high school coach says Thomas is a better person than player, that’s hardly a knock on Jaylan Thomas The Running Back. Calhoun said that upon Thomas’ commitment, he told Phoenix coaches they were “getting the steal of the [2018 recruiting] class.” 

And it hasn’t taken long to translate to the college game. 

“What Jaylan ended up doing was not a surprise in the least,” Calhoun said. “He was such a versatile player for us. We could have slid him out to wide receiver and not missed a beat.” 

Of course, Thomas worked out just fine at running back. His senior season at Carrollton, he rushed for 1,626 yards and averaged a staggering 10.4 per carry. Thomas racked up 19 touchdowns on the ground, with a 20th via reception. 

The wave from Carrollton carried Thomas into his debut season at Elon, and the unknown any freshman transitioning from high school to college faces. Not all handle it as adeptly as Thomas, but in retrospect, he said his first year in the Colonial adjusted his preparation style ahead of his second. 

“Last year, coming in as a freshman having a big high school career, I wasn’t trying to work on my weaknesses,” Thomas said. “Now, I can go back and watch the film of the things that I did [in 2018] and work that to become faster, more explosive.” 

Thomas adding more dimensions to his repertoire makes him just that much more fearsome come autumn—and those around the Colonial take notice. He was tabbed preseason All-CAA at media day in Baltimore. 

The many qualities Thomas brings to Elon football exemplify the mantra Trisciani said the Phoenix pursue: “AED—attitude, effort, discipline.” 

That, in turn, has made for a smooth transition with the former defensive coordinator Trisciani replacing Curt Cignetti as head coach. Thomas said the new-look staff has provided an initially seamless fit, in particular with Tony Lucas coaching the Phoenix running backs. 

And Elon itself is a fit with Thomas that speaks to the multidimensional nature of his presence. 

“Elon was the last school to communicate with me. When I got here, I fell in love with the place—and not just athletically,” he said. “Academically, too. Elon will get me ready for 50 years down the line, not just playing football. Me coming to Elon, I know I’ll be set for the rest of my life and able to provide for my family.” 

Goal-oriented and infectiously positive, Thomas will continue to attack defenses with the same balanced approach he views his college experience. And he’ll do it with a smile contrary to the aggressive style he carries the ball—like when in his freshman season, he capped a touchdown rush against Richmond with a GQ grin and shrug. 

“The shrug will be back,” Thomas laughed. “But I can tell, there will be more [celebrations].”

Villanova Sends A Message With Season-Opening Demolition Of Colgate

If Saturday’s college football season opener was any indication, Villanova may be back.

Living Legend Terry Curtis Leads UMS-Wright Into Freedom Bowl

If you want to know what sustained success looks like then turn your attention to Terry Curtis.

2019 CAA Preview: Villanova Wildcats

Last season, the Villanova Wildcats were riding high after upsetting and defeating Philadelphia-area rival Temple. It was the first time in almost a decade that the 'Cats were able to pull off the FCS-over-FBS victory, finally doing so after coming close in previous installments of the rivalry game.

Live This Week: Aug. 29-31, 2019

The 2019 Freedom Bowl Is LIVE On Flo

We did it, folks. We survived the long offseason and will now be rewarded with a weekend full of fantastic high school and college football.

The 7 Best Uncommitted Players At The Freedom Bowl

The 2019 Freedom Bowl Is LIVE On Flo

Nearly 20 three-star and above prospects will be on display this weekend at the Freedom Bowl, and while the majority of them are committed, there remains plenty of talent still looking for the school they will play for at the next level. 

Toughest CAA Non-Conference Schedules

In case you somehow missed the news, FloFootball will be the home of 70 Colonial Athletic Association games this season and we couldn't be more excited.

Stony Brook Enters 2019 With Playmakers & Postseason Aspirations

It took some time, but Stony Brook football transitioned nicely into Colonial Athletic Association membership. After four straight, 5-win seasons, the Seawolves broke out with a 10-3 campaign in 2017.

2019 CAA Preview: New Hampshire Wildcats

Strange as it may sound, there’s no place University of New Hampshire safety Pop Lacey would rather have Thanksgiving dinner this year than the UNH dining hall. Lacey’s preference has less to do with the quality of the food served on campus than it does with the length of his team’s season.

Catching Up With Stony Brook's Sam Kamara

As the 2019 college football season approaches, the Stony Brook Seawolves look to continue to build on the success they had in 2018. One way to ensure that happens, is by leaning on what looks to be a strong defense at all three levels. 

Ricky Santos Is Back Home In New Hampshire's Quarterback Room


Only the most ardent University of New Hampshire football fans gave the Wildcats a chance to be competitive in their 2004 game at Rutgers. Even that group became less optimistic when it was announced that UNH starting quarterback Mike Granieri would miss the Rutgers game with a knee injury suffered a week earlier against Delaware.