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After a sensational redshirt freshman season, SDSU’s Cameron Thomas (65), a former standout at Carlsbad High, has made the preseason watch list for awards that go to the nation’s top defensive players. Thomas, though, isn’t sure if the upcoming season will he played because of COVID-19. Photo by Ernie Anderson/SDSU Athletics.
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Sports Talk: Ex-Lancer Thomas shows his mettle for Aztecs 

San Diego State’s Cameron Thomas never lacks for effort. Then again, there’s that summit which to some is too steep to conquer.

“I really tried to root for the Chargers growing up,” Thomas said. “They just made it hard to do, so I became a Steelers fan.”

No doubting that Thomas, a former Carlsbad High standout, stood out when the Chargers played the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012.

Thomas showed his mettle while cheering for the Steelers, despite them losing, 34-24.

Long before Thomas, a defensive lineman, became a candidate for national awards, he was lined up next to pops at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field.

“My dad (Mike) was in his full-blown Chargers gear and I was in my Steelers gear head-to-toe,” Thomas said.

Yes, he waved a Terrible Towel, much like rivals seek a white one when attempting to block the steely Thomas.

“He’s a tough son of a gun,’” San Diego State coach Brady Hoke said.

Carlsbad coach Thadd MacNeal agrees. Thomas, and his brother, Zachary, who is SDSU’s starting left tackle, were a fountain of talent and tenacity for the Lancers.

“I always hoped his family had more boys,” MacNeal said.

The sun shined on Thomas’ SDSU redshirt season and that’s landed him on the Bronco Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award list of candidates.

Thomas had 49 tackles, nine tackles for losses and 5.5 sacks on a defense that helped the Aztecs (10-3) produce a double-digit win season for the fourth time in five years.

“We had a lot of good guys on that defense,” Thomas said.

He’s right and it’s wrong to overlook his impact. 

Thomas earned his stripes on a unit ranked in the top 10 nationally by being disruptive from the line’s left, right and middle. From any direction, Thomas was a force, but that’s nothing fresh.

“He would dominate an entire defensive side in high school and teams would run away from him,” MacNeal said. “Then we would use him as a tight end and run right behind him.”

The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Thomas would embrace sprinting onto any field. But COVID-19 pumped the brakes on his sophomore season and that has Thomas somewhat idled. 

The personal workouts continue but team meetings are online and the physical contact, which Thomas craves, is off limits.

The Aztecs are a week or so away from camp and were set to open Sept. 5 against Sacramento State. Whether that is a capital idea or not is baffling.

“It’s so hard to tell right now what is going to happen,” Thomas said. “I would love to be out there with my teammates, battling the opponent and uniting together.”

And, of course, separating a quarterback from the football.

“There’s nothing better than a strip-sack,” Thomas said.

Especially on what it involves en route to the pocket.

“I don’t avoid contact,” Thomas said. “If you can kick the guy’s tail in front of you, good things usually happen.”

There’s no lack of a show of hands predicting Thomas’ future is bright. Thomas has aspired to play in the NFL, and right now, there’s no better time to chase dreams.

“I’m passionate about that,” Thomas said. “That will always be my focus.”

Wouldn’t it be a sight if Thomas joined the Steelers? His Chargers-loving dad might change his tune, as well as his wardrobe.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] Follow him at jparis_sports