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September 25, 2011Tallahassee, Fla., linebacker Kadeem Thomas committed to Kentucky over the weekend during his official visit to Lexington.
"Pancho" Thomas, who is 6 feet 1 and 230 pounds, is a three-star prospect ranked as the nation's No. 36 inside linebacker by Rivals.com. He plays for Godby High School, which has a strong football program and has other 2012 players already committed to Oklahoma, Auburn, Miami, Arkansas and Georgia Tech.
Thomas discussed his UK official visit and his commitment with CatsIllustrated.com recruiting editor Steve Jones on Sunday night.
CatsIllustrated.com: What did you think about your trip up to Kentucky this weekend?
Kadeem "Pancho" Thomas: I loved it, man. I loved it.
CatsIllustrated.com: What made you decide you wanted to go ahead and commit?
Pancho Thomas: I loved their fan base. That was one thing I loved. I loved that the city was small, like the city I live in now. I wouldn't get in too much trouble there (laughing). And I connected with the players. At other trips I've been on, I've connected with the players, but on this trip, they made me feel at home.
CatsIllustrated.com: Freshman wide receiver Jerry Williams was your team host, and freshman defensive end Alvin Dupree also hung out with you a lot. What did those guys say to you?
Pancho Thomas: They were just telling me what they need. For two months, I already knew I was going to commit to Kentucky before I even got here. I really liked the city, the town, how their fans are. Last night, when they were down (to Florida), their fans stayed and cheered them on the whole game even though they knew they weren't coming back. I don't know; I just felt at home. I just felt it was somewhere the I could be me.
CatsIllustrated.com: Did you commit after the game?
Pancho Thomas: I committed before the game.
CatsIllustrated.com: What was coach Joker Phillips' reaction to that?
Pancho Thomas: He was so excited. ... He was just like, "Welcome to the family, baby." I was like, "Thanks, Coach."
CatsIllustrated.com: What do you think about him?
Pancho Thomas: He's a cool guy. I like him a lot. I'd love to play for him.
CatsIllustrated.com: Offensive line coach Mike Summers is your main recruiter. What do you think about him, and what kind of role did he play in you wanting to go there?
Pancho Thomas: Me and Coach Summers have been talking for the longest. I'll call him and tell him how I feel, but I never told him I was going to commit. I just was going to wait until I got there to commit. We're always talking. He's always telling me about how much they are thinking about me up there. We just really connected.
CatsIllustrated.com: Did you get meet Chuck Smith, the linebackers coach?
Pancho Thomas: I got to meet Coach Smith. We had breakfast together a couple times, and had pregame together. We had a good time.
CatsIllustrated.com: What do you think about him as a coach you'll be around a lot?
Pancho Thomas: That guy, I think me and him will be the best of friends. He's a cool guy. He was straightforward with me. He didn't give me any B.S. He told me straight up what's going to happen when I get there.
CatsIllustrated.com: The linebackers right now might be their three best players on their defense, and they're all seniors. What are you thoughts on how you might fit in after those guys go?
Pancho Thomas: That was another big part of my decision because I don't want to go somewhere where I'm not going to get a chance to play early, or at least get a chance to fight for it. Basically what they told me is, "We have guys leaving, so we need backers. That's what we really need." They're not going to just, because I'm a freshman, kick me to the side. They're going to see what I can do.
CatsIllustrated.com: What is that you can do? What should Kentucky fans expect out of you over the next four or five years?
Pancho Thomas: They said they want me to come in and be able to fight for a starting spot.
CatsIllustrated.com: Definitely a middle linebacker?
Pancho Thomas: Yes, sir.
CatsIllustrated.com: What are the best parts of your game?
Pancho Thomas: I'm aggressive. I love contact. I don't shy away from it. I love to take on guards. I just love the contact. There is nothing better.
CatsIllustrated.com: I've heard you described before as a "tackling machine." Is that what you think you are like? Do you like to get involved in every play?
Pancho Thomas: Yes, sir. That's how I am. I led the state of Florida in tackles with 166 (last season), and I led the state of Florida in interceptions with six.
CatsIllustrated.com: One hundred sixty-six tackles? So what's the most you've ever had in a game?
Pancho Thomas: The most I've ever had in a game is 20.
CatsIllustrated.com: So is there rarely a play in your area that you're not in on it?
Pancho Thomas: Yeah, that's very rare. But you know now it's getting to the point where they knew who I am and where I am, so they're not going to run my way. But I always run it down and get a little piece of the action.
CatsIllustrated.com: How about your speed, movement, strength? What are you best things and things you need to work on?
Pancho Thomas: I'm not the fastest guy, but I take proper angles, and I have awesome footwork. For a big guy, I have extremely good footwork.
CatsIllustrated.com: What were the other schools you considered the most?
Pancho Thomas: Pitt, Cincinnati, UMass, Illinois, Florida Atlantic.
CatsIllustrated.com: You had offers from all those places?
Pancho Thomas: Yes, sir.
CatsIllustrated.com: Kentucky is the only one you mentioned there that was a Southeastern Conference school. Was that a factor for you?
Pancho Thomas: I had a lot of interest from Tennessee and South Carolina, and they really wanted me up there, but we lost contact and I was always talking to Kentucky. So I was like, "Hey, they're sticking with me." And I do want to play in a tough conference.
CatsIllustrated.com: Do you go mostly by "Kadeem" or "Pancho," and where did you get that nickname?
Pancho Thomas: I go by "Pancho." My aunt gave it to me before she passed away, and it just stuck with me. ... That's what everyone who knows me calls me.
CatsIllustrated.com: Is that what you'll want to go by on the roster at UK and the school's website?
Pancho Thomas: Yeah, that's what I want to go by.
CatsIllustrated.com: Do you have plans to visit there again soon?
Pancho Thomas: Oh, yes, sir. I don't know about before the season's over, but probably after the season, I'll definitely go up there again.
CatsIllustrated.com: I guess Shadrach Thornton from Georgia also committed. Did you all hang out?
Pancho Thomas: Oh, yeah, Shadrach and I had a good time. After I committed, he was just so excited. At first he wasn't going to commit because he told his mom he wouldn't (on the visit), but after he saw how happy I was with my decision - and me and him just connected the entire trip - so he was just like, "I'm happy with us, too." He couldn't hold it back anymore, so he went on and committed.