By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE - As people say, video games have an effect on today's youth.
That's partially the case with Copperas Cove's Orlando Thomas.
The junior spent hours playing Electronic Arts Inc.'s NCAA Football. His team - the University of Texas.
"That's always been my team," Thomas said. "I love UT."
Tuesday, Thomas officially made the Longhorns his team. Following news of his verbal commitment Feb. 13, Thomas spoke publicly for the first time.
His reponse to choosing Texas was simple.
"The family atmosphere at Texas, the connection I had with (head) coach (Mack) Brown and the players they already had there," he said.
Thomas attended the Longhorns' first Junior Day two weeks ago.
"It was fun," Thomas said. "When I went down there, everything there was completely different from every other school. It was big-time.
"The University of Texas showed me a lot of love and I just felt like I wanted to go there."
Thomas is one of the highest-recruited players in Cove's football history.
A former running back, Thomas moved to wide receiver his sophomore year. He caught 18 passes for 297 yards, and the attention of colleges.
Former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and current co-offensive coordinate Major Applewhite recruited Thomas, with Applewhite staying on the recruitment after Muschamp left in December to become the head coach at Florida.
The Thomas family, originally from Baton Rouge, La., had a connection with Applewhite, a former All-American quarterback at Baton Rouge's Catholic High School.
"I really wasn't expecting that big of a school to come see me because I didn't think I was that good," Thomas said.
The Longhorns saw the athleticism Cove's opponents saw this past season.
"He has the intangible, which is the speed, the cuts and all of the elusiveness that goes with it," Cove head coach Jack Welch said.
Thomas ran for 1,317 yards and 15 touchdowns last year, moving to quarterback right before the season and earning all-district honors. He led Cove to a 9-2 record and was named to the Daily Herald's All-Area first team.
"When he first started last year, he had never done it before," Welch said. "And it goes to show you that with good instruction and paying attention and learning, who knows what he'll do."
The multi-dimensional Thomas - he also caught eight passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns last year - is an "athlete" in the recruiting world. Some projections have Thomas moving over to the defensive secondary.
Thomas said Texas coaches don't have a definite place for him yet. He just wants to get on the field.
"I've just thought about playing anything, matter of fact - it doesn't matter," he said. "Wherever those coaches feel I can perform the best at, that's where I'm going to play. Even if it is quarterback."