Chuck Landon: Penn State transfer believes in teammates
Derrick Thomas has been around the collegiate block.
The Penn State transfer has been a member of championship teams.
He has been part of so-so squads.
And, yes, the cornerback has been involved in programs that tossed in the towel because they were suffering through poor seasons.
Thomas has run the gamut from "L" to "W".
That's why Marshall's junior cornerback who previously played for two seasons at Penn State just might have the quintessential opinion about the foundering Herd's disappointing season, which was punctuated by a 54-17 loss to UCF last Saturday at Edwards Stadium.
"That was the toughest loss of the season for me," said Thomas. "It was pretty tough. But what can you do? We can't keep looking back at it. We can't keep dwelling on it.
"We've got four more games to play. You dwell on a loss, you're going to lose the next game. And that's something we definitely don't need to do."
So, Marshall takes its disappointing 3-5 record and looks ahead to hosting Memphis at 2 p.m., Saturday.
But are all the players looking ahead? Or are some of them looking down with bowed heads of acquiescence?
"I've been in losing seasons before," said Thomas emphatically. "I've been in losing situations before. But one thing I can say about this team that is different. ... these guys don't give up.
"No one on this team is giving up. No one is holding his head down. No one is saying, 'It's over' or anything like that. I really respect that about these guys."
Thomas' respect is borne from the experience of being on the other side of that refuse-to-quit fence.
"Yeah," he said thoughtfully. "Throughout all my life? Yeah. Throughout my football career, I've been on some teams where it got a little too adverse and guys started to give in and started to feel sorry for themselves."
Imagine how excruciating that must have been for an athlete as competitive as Thomas.
"Yeah, it's very hard," said the native of Greenbelt, Md. "But this team isn't like that. That's why I really respect being here. Because from the coaching staff to the players -- offense, defense, special teams -- no one has given up.
"That just lets me know to keep working, keep working and keep pushing."
So, that's precisely what Thomas is doing this week, despite suffering an injury that sidelined him late during the UCF game.
"I had a little minor injury," said Thomas, who picked off his second interception of the season against UCF. "But it's nothing to worry about. I'm fine. I'm good to go."
That means Thomas will continue to pursue the one goal that still remains for Marshall when Memphis rolls into town for the game on Saturday. The Herd still can qualify for a bowl game for the second consecutive season.
Yes, there's still a carrot out there ...
"That we need to get," said Thomas, finishing the sentence. "We've got seniors on the team. Every year when you've got seniors on the team, you don't want the seniors going out with at least not going bowling ... at the very least of anything.
"Our chances of a conference championship might have gone away, but we've got to send these guys out the right way. So, everybody is going to keep working hard to make sure these guys finish the proper way."
That's an admirable show of respect.
And, perhaps, it proves Thomas' point. Maybe the Herd hasn't given up.
We'll find out for sure on Saturday.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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