Note: The following appears in the North Carolina football gameday program.
Xavier Thomas grew up in Florence, S.C., but he ultimately attended IMG Academy during his senior year of high school. While there, he was a standout defensive edge player. Upon joining the Tigers in 2018, he was ranked as the No. 4 player in his class according to ESPN.
Thomas’ first two years at Clemson brought much success. In his freshman campaign, he was had 43 tackles and 3.5 sacks while playing 304 snaps in 15 games. It was during that year that the Tigers captured their third national championship. He was a key player in the historic campaign for the program by being named a first-team freshman All-American by multiple outlets.
This success continued during his sophomore season, when the athletic Tiger earned Third-Team All-ACC honors after playing 434 snaps and 12 games, recording 31 tackles and two sacks.
Following those first two years in the spotlight, Thomas opened up about his struggles with depression that began prior to his junior season.
“My junior season, when COVID hit, I went through a depression year, and I got overweight,” admitted Thomas. “I had a bunch of stuff going on.”
Following a difficult 2020 season and COVID-19 year, while also dealing with struggles off the field, Thomas continued to play the sport he loves due to his newfound faith and personal resilience.
“Going through that depression year was what developed me in regards to my faith and growing in my faith. That’s what really kept me going…always keeping my faith and trusting in God through everything, regardless of whatever I went through.”
Thomas’ growth showed in the 2021 season both in the weight room and on the field. He was a Third-Team All-ACC selection that season, as he registered 27 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two caused fumbles in 12 games. It was in wake of this bounce-back success that Thomas regained his belief in himself in hopes of continuing to play football in the NFL.
Right before what he believed was to be his final year, and fifth year, at Clemson in 2022, the defensive end broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his foot, which limited him to only three games.
“Going through the broken foot was frustrating, but I had already built my faith up from being at rock bottom throughout that depression year. I also had all my teammates’ and coaches’ support.”
After being granted an additional year of eligibility due to COVID-19, Thomas was granted a sixth year of…