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By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
As a high school quarterback, point guard and shortstop from Eastland, Texas, Glenn Thomas’ biggest dream was playing college baseball.
And that dream was crushed when Thomas suffered an ACL injury playing football his senior year at Eastland. While working on his master’s degree at Texas Tech, though, he got to work under legendary coach Spike Dykes, kicking off a career that has taken him to the NFL as the quarterbacks coach with the Atlanta Falcons and now to Baylor as the Bears’ co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
“Growing up in Eastland, Texas, I would have never thought I would be coaching in the NFL,” said the 39-year-old Thomas, who also coached the quarterbacks for back-to-back 10-win seasons at Temple University, adding the coordinator role last year. “We had a great run there in Atlanta and we were able to get to the NFC Championship game and go to the playoffs however many years. I learned a lot and was around a lot of great people. I was very fortunate to have that opportunity and get to experience some of those things.”
Wading through some other offers, while waiting through the NFL hiring season, Thomas was one of the final pieces to coach Matt Rhule’s staff at Baylor. He was originally hired as the quarterbacks coach and was promoted to co-offensive coordinator when Matt Lubick left to take a position at Washington.
“No. 1, what Glenn brings is immense schematic knowledge of the passing game,” Rhule said. “I think he brings just tremendous ability to build a quarterback from the ground up. When he came from the Falcons to Temple, our quarterback was a really talented kid (Phillip Walker) who had thrown 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions the year before and we were 6-6. With Glenn coming in, he went to 19 and 8, and we won 10 games. And then as he stepped into the coordinator’s role, we won 10 games again.”
In addition to the chance to reunite with Rhule, the Baylor job gave Thomas and his family a chance to be back in Texas for the first time in nearly a decade. He and his wife, Felicia, have two sons, Hayden and Dylan.
“It’s kind of ironic how the cycle works sometimes,” he said. “I was telling them about high school football in Texas for the last couple of years, and now they’re down here living my life. It’s been really fun to see those guys kind of in our element. . . . I couldn’t ask for much more – the facilities, the people, the priority that is put on this place and the excitement of what it is moving forward, it’s really exciting to be a part of.”
From Tech, Thomas went to Division II Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, as a graduate assistant, coaching wide receivers for four years before becoming the Mustangs’ offensive coordinator in 2005.
“Bill Maskill, who’s still the head coach there, actually gave me my first job,” Thomas said. “Even when I was a GA, I was under three different coordinators at Midwestern, so I tried to pull a lot from them schematically and how they did it from a preparation standpoint.”
While working at Midwestern, Thomas also got his foot in the NFL door as a volunteer during the off-seasons with the Jackson Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens, where he met eventual Falcons head coach Mike Smith.
“It’s just kind of who you know,” he said. “I had been interning and volunteering at that level up with the Ravens and then with the Jaguars, just trying to be around it. I was actually a GA at Midwestern and kind of doing the same thing in the NFL, just trying to soak up schemes, soak up operations, the dynamics. In hindsight, it was really an invaluable experience, but I got to know people there.”
After four years in offensive quality control, specifically working with the Falcons’ quarterbacks, Thomas was promoted to full-time quarterbacks coach in 2012. Under his tutelage, Matt Ryan earned a pair of Pro Bowl berths and threw for more than 4,500 yards and 26 touchdowns in Thomas’ three seasons as the QB coach.
“It was phenomenal,” Thomas said of working with Ryan, the Falcons’ all-time leading passer. “On the field, off the field, he was just everything you would want. People don’t realize how much of a competitor, how fiery he is, how much he cares about it and prepares for it.”
“All three quarterbacks have a different skill set,” Thomas said. “Zach’s got the big arm and his movement (in the pocket) is a lot better. Anu is in a different stage in his life than (Smith and Brewer) as far as the experience he’s had in college football. He’s got arm talent, he can spin the ball, he’s got some athleticism. Obviously, Charlie Brewer has had all kinds of success at the high school level. Now, it’s his transition to speed of the game, volume of the playbook, but he can throw and run. They all bring different things to the table.”
Like Rhule, Thomas says he’s not in a hurry to name a starter for the Bears’ Sept. 2 season opener against Liberty.
“I don’t think there’s any negative to that. I think it’s extremely positive, because it keeps people on their toes every day,” he said. “You can’t have a day where you’re not your sharpest, you’re not studying, you’re not preparing, being ready to go. Every time you cross the line, you’ve got to be ready to go.”
With players finishing the last day of the Summer II semester on Tuesday, the Bears had their last 6:45 a.m. practice and will get to go at 8:30 the rest of camp.
“I think their focus has been outstanding,” Rhule said following Tuesday’s workout. “I think it’s just three or four hours off of their day. Sunday is a day off, and some guys have been writing papers for four hours. So, I’m proud of them as far as academically and getting it done. Now that that’s done today, you can put a little more focus and time on football.”
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