Football

JCSU free safety Carlo Thomas takes lead in NCAA interceptions

Johnson C. Smith defensive back Carlo Thomas, who has 12 interceptions this season, leads the country in all NCAA divisions. “I keep planning on making big plays,” Thomas says.
Johnson C. Smith defensive back Carlo Thomas, who has 12 interceptions this season, leads the country in all NCAA divisions. “I keep planning on making big plays,” Thomas says. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Carlo Thomas is looking for takeaways.

The J.C. Smith free safety leads all NCAA football divisions with 12 interceptions, including nine over the last three games – all Golden Bulls (4-5, 3-1 CIAA South) wins. He picked off a school-record four passes against Fayetteville State Oct. 17, returning a pair for touchdowns. His previous high for interceptions in a game was two.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Thomas, a sophomore from East Orange, N.J., who is third among Golden Bulls with 47 tackles, averages 22.7 yards on kick returns and has a touchdown catch on offense. “It’s coming from hard work. Me and my team are playing hard, and I’m still making big plays, so I keep planning on making big plays.”

Thomas’ range and instincts made an immediate impact on J.C. Smith’s defense, which leads the CIAA with 21 interceptions and six returns for touchdowns. The Golden Bulls, who play rival Livingstone (4-3, 3-1 CIAA South) Saturday in the Commemorative Classic, allow an average of 22.4 points per game compared with 32.9 in 2014. They’ve held the last three opponents combined to 33 points.

“Carlo is having a phenomenal year, but he’s such an athlete; he can see things happening before other people can,” J.C. Smith coach Kermit Blount said.

Said senior linebacker Austin Jacques, one of Division II’s top tacklers and a 2014 All-America: “Carlo is a gift from God. He’s not always a man of many words, but when he speaks, it’s always meaningful, and he always comes to play. It’s an honor to play with him.”

With a record-setting season in hand, Thomas, a transfer from Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania, is likely to merit consideration for postseason accolades. Jacques, the CIAA’s leading tackler, believes his teammate is worthy.

“Without question,” Jacques said. “As long as we keep working hard, All-America caliber is what we are and what we strive for.”

Thomas is more interested in the Golden Bulls’ bottom line.

“I play humble,” he said. “I don’t get too cocky or whatever. I know my athletic abilities, so I play humble, I play (within the) team, I play for my brothers on the offense and defense.”

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