Tavion Thomas: The Train Was Having Maintenance

Oct 11, 2022, 7:22 AM
Tavion Thomas - Oregon Ducks - Utah Utes...
Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas (9) celebrates after scoring a touchdown as Utah and Oregon play an NCAA football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. (Courtesy of Deseret News)
(Courtesy of Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY- We all know that life is rarely fair, and it certainly never was fair for Tavion Thomas. The talented running back for the Utes has faced more than his share of hard knocks- some of them self-inflicted, some of them not, noting the T-Train “was having maintenance” to start the season.

Thomas broke out on the scene for Utah last year after having lived in his car thinking football was over for him. After going for 1,108 yards on 204 carries and racking up 21 touchdowns in 2021, it seemed only logical Thomas would continue on that path in 2022, but it hasn’t been that easy.

Coaches have sighted accountability and consistency issues for some of Thomas’ absence early in 2022. Thomas also suffered a personal tragedy just before the San Diego State game, losing an aunt he has credited for helping to raise him and 13 other family members.

While losing someone close to you in such a shocking manner is never ideal, it seems to have served as the wakeup call Thomas needed to get his game back on track. Both Thomas and head coach Kyle Whittingham have said things are looking up, and now it’s up to Thomas to continue remembering his “why”.


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“I’m hanging in there,” Thomas said. “Just trying to stay focused, looking at the bigger picture. I know that she wouldn’t want me to give up and she loved the family. I’m here with them every day just helping to keep me going. We just have to keep going.”

Tavion Thomas Train Maintenance

Thomas got to take a quick trip home for his aunt’s funeral just before the Arizona State game- something he says he hasn’t done in nearly two years. Being around family, and feeling their love appears to be just what Thomas needed to remember he has an unfinished job with Utah.

“I haven’t seen family in almost two years,” Thomas said. “It felt good to go home- it didn’t feel good to go home in those circumstances, but it was good to see family, be around family. I know we have a job to do. We got to come to work and get going.”

“I feel like sometimes you need to go back to your environment and see where you don’t want to be at,” Thomas continued. “Now you know what you are missing, you don’t want to go back home and do the things that you were doing. You want to stay locked in, stay focused, stay out here. Remember your ‘why’. Going home and seeing my family made me feel that love again. They were telling me they had been watching me and I just needed that family love to get me back on the right track.”

Thomas had his best game of the season last weekend in a 42-32 loss to UCLA, rushing 18 times for 91 yards and one touchdown. While the T-Train may be back in commission, Thomas acknowledges he’s got to be better for his team.


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“The train was having maintenance,” Thomas said. “Had to take the boot out so now it’s time to get going. I feel like my brothers need me. They are counting on me and I’m counting on them too. I want to do whatever I can do to help the team win. I hate losing. That’s what’s hurting me right now. I have to up my game and play better. That’s all I’m going to do.”

Tavion Thomas From Kyle Whittingham’s Perspective

Earlier in the day Whittingham was asked about Thomas’ progression during his weekly Monday Press Conference and seemed to echo much of what his running back was saying.

“Much better,” Whittingham said. “There has been no setbacks and we hope he’s able to- cuz last year it was about this same time where we were starting to breakout, and we hope to get the same thing this year and he can stay on track.”

Now it’s about getting Thomas in shape to play the number of downs the Utes want and need him for. While Thomas did have a good game last Saturday, Whittingham did acknowledge he’s not in game shape and was part of the reason he was used less in the second half than the first half.

“We were playing catchup a little bit,” Whittingham said. “Not big-time catchup, but he was a little bit tired and still not in great shape. He did carry the ball, what? 18 times? That’s still a pretty good workload for a game and he played his best game of the year- most productive. Maybe in hindsight we should have given him a few more carries in the second half, but it wasn’t by design to go away from him.”


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