ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Football players are often known for playing through pain, but Adonis Thomas has taken that to a whole new level this season.
The University of Toledo senior running back suffered a broken left forearm on his first carry at Syracuse on Sept. 24 but missed just three games. On his first carry against Northern Illinois on Nov. 1, Thomas broke his right thumb but has continued to play through his newest malady.
Toledo vs. Air Force
When: Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.
Records: UT 8-4; Air Force 7-5
Series: First meeting
Favorite: UT by 3
"What he's fought through to get himself back on the football field, it's unheard of," UT coach Matt Campbell said Saturday following the Rockets' first practice at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School before their matchup with Air Force in the Military Bowl on Wednesday in Washington.
"Playing three weeks after surgery and then hurting his thumb the first time he carries the ball against Northern but still playing that whole game, then coming back and playing [the next week] against Western Michigan, it embodies everything we want our program to stand for."
For Thomas, it was an easy decision not to let his injuries keep him sidelined.
"Every time I get hurt, nicked, or bruised and don't feel like doing anything, I just remember the time I told my mother that someday I'll be able to take care of her and my sister," said Thomas, a native of Newark and the product of a single-parent household.
"Football is the only way I know how to do it, so I put my injuries aside and think about their future," Thomas added. "That's what motivates me."
Despite playing in just nine games this season, Thomas has rushed for 963 yards and 11 touchdowns and is 17th in the nation with 107 rushing yards per game. He also leads the Mid-American Conference with 6.5 yards per carry, but still was snubbed with second-team all-conference honors for the second year in a row.
Nonetheless, the 5-10, 185-pound back hopes to find himself on an NFL roster at this time next year.
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"I'm going to do anything I can to play football at the next level," said Thomas, an individualized studies major at UT. "Hopefully I get an invite to one of the senior games and get a chance to showcase myself so that I can end up on an NFL roster."
Coming out of the MAC, Thomas knows it won't be an easy road to the NFL, but he's ready to prove his doubters wrong once again.
"I've always had a lot to prove. It's always been that way all my life," Thomas said. "People say I'm undersized for my position, but I make up for it in heart."
Thomas had breakout year last season for the Rockets, rushing for 1,098 yards and eight touchdowns while leading the MAC with 6.3 yards per carry. He also was second on the team with 31 receptions for 372 yards and two touchdowns.
Thomas saved his best for last in 2010, posting a season-high 193 yards and two touchdowns against Florida International in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Although his three-game absence at running back this season wasn't noticed as greatly as it could have been with the emergence of senior Morgan Williams and sophomore David Fluellen, Thomas still is an important, established figure for the Rockets.
"Adonis is invaluable," Campbell said.
"If there's one kid in our program from when we came in three years ago that has made leaps and bounds and made an impression on this program and what we want it to stand for, it's Adonis Thomas."
His teammates have also taken notice and realize the sacrifices Thomas has made to be on the field this season.
"When a guy comes back from injuries like that, it shows he's tough and it pushes a lot of other guys to work through injuries," said senior right tackle John Morookian, who's played on a broken foot for much of the year.
"He's an explosive guy and he brings excitement to the things that other people consider a grind. It's important to have a guy like that to lead you, and he's done a great job.
"You can't say enough good things about a guy who comes back and plays with two broken bones."
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ZachSilka.