Clevan Thomas took the long route to the end zone. When the redshirt sophomore wide receiver finally reached it last Saturday vs. Arkansas, he was overwhelmed with emotion.
“It was special,” Thomas said shortly after the game concluded.
His first career touchdown came from a peculiar place. The 10-yard back-shoulder fade to Thomas was delivered by one of his closest friends, Lynn Bowden.
“It was really special because my freshman year it was me and Lynn. Lynn always had my back,” Thomas said. “Lynn knew what I was capable of and for him to throw me my first touchdown, it brought me to a tear.”
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) October 13, 2019
For years Bowden filled the role Thomas expected to play. As an early enrollee in 2017, coaches heaped praise upon Clevan throughout spring practice, culminating with a score in the Blue/White Game. That fall, finding a spot in the slot rotation became more difficult when Bowden arrived on campus. Thomas saw action in eight games as a true freshman. The following year, his playing time dwindled. He opted to use the opportunity to redshirt, while others encouraged him to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
“I had some family and friends say you should leave there, etcetera, etcetera, but my heart’s here,” Thomas said. “I bleed blue. My family loves it here. I just kept my mental, my hard work and when my time came, I showed up.”
Bowden knew Thomas was prepared to make the play when his number was called.
“A lot of guys, they get anxious, they want to play. They think leaving is something to do,” Bowden said. “Once we meet with each other and started bonding, it just spread, the love. You could see it on the sideline and on the field. Our juice went straight up. With Clevan, he’s hard on himself, so if he makes a mistake he can get down on himself. With that play right there, it can boost his confidence the rest of the year.”
After the game in the locker room, Mark Stoops used Clevan as an example for the rest of the young players who are paying their dues.
“It was really big,” Stoops recalled in his postgame press conference. “Clevan has been working for years and doesn’t always get the opportunity. It’s too easy in this day and age for guys just to chuck it in and throw in the towel or pout and all those type of things. It’s really good to see guys grind their way through and when they get their opportunity make the most of it.”