Winter 2022 magazine

Clemson's Xavier Thomas returns from injury as he lets 'Jesus live through me'

Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas had to wait until Saturday’s 31-3 win over Boston College to make his season debut, but he made an immediate impact. Thomas only played six snaps while he continues to recover from a foot injury.

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He still managed to end the game with two sacks, a forced fumble and another quarterback hit. For his performance, the former five-star recruit was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week for the first time in his career.

“Really proud of [Thomas] and happy for him,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Sunday. “That was a really fun thing to see and be a part of. He’s worked his tail off and obviously was having a great camp and was super disappointed when he got hurt. But he’s just kept the faith and kept doing what he needed to do, so for him to be able to come back and make an impact like that, it’s just going to give him the wind in his sails that I think he needs.”

“Nothing but God & some hard work,” Thomas tweeted after the game.

A two-time All-ACC third-team selection, Thomas recorded 21 total tackles, two forced fumbles and three-and-a-half sacks in 12 games last season. Just one year before, he was ready to walk away from the sport and “give up on life.”

Thomas battled depression at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and gained more than 40 pounds. At one of his lowest points, Thomas turned to God and gave his life to Christ. After getting baptized in June, he shared his testimony in a powerful Instagram post celebrating the occasion and what God’s done in his life.

“In the year of 2021, I met Jesus,” Thomas wrote. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve known and believed in Jesus my whole life, my mother always made sure we went to church every Sunday, but there is a difference between KNOWING Jesus and living for God & letting Jesus live through me.”

 

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A post shared by Xavier Thomas (@therealxt)

He took to Twitter when the injury happened in August, promising he would be back and declaring that “God got the kid.” His social media accounts are full of posts referencing his faith and retweets of prominent pastors.

Speaking to the media Tuesday, Thomas discussed the mental health struggles he’s faced and how dedicating his life to Christ helped him stay positive while he was sidelined.

“Just going through all those dark times, went through depression, got overweight, and just coming back from all that stuff, I know I can get through anything,” he said. “So, there’s not really much that can really bring me down at this point. I can really just have faith in God and know that He has me no matter what I go through.”

Clemson is hoping Thomas can play an increasingly important role for the 6-0 Tigers, who moved up to the No. 4 spot in the AP college football poll this week. It is the seventh time in the last eight seasons Clemson has won its first six games.

The Tigers travel to Tallahassee to face Florida State on Saturday. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast on ABC.

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