Teammates since seventh grade prepare for final game together

By Cary Estes, www.armedforcesbowl.com
 
Bowl games are often bittersweet moments for the senior players. They get to play one more game and enjoy the camaraderie of the team atmosphere. But there is also a bit of sadness involved, as they realize they will soon be parting ways with teammates who they have been close to for several years.

That will be especially true for two of Rice’s fifth-year seniors. Saturday’s Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl will be the final college game for defensive linemen Jamael Thomas and Jared Williams. But this will be more than just a collegiate farewell for Thomas and Williams. It will mark the end of a football relationship that began 10 years ago, when both players were in seventh grade at Huntsville High School in Huntsville, Texas. They have been football teammates ever since.

Though their path to Rice started in the same place, they took different routes to get to the school. Williams was named Huntsville’s MVP his senior season and was recruited by several colleges. Thomas, however, did not receive any football scholarship offers. Instead, he followed Williams to Rice on the strength of his academic record, and then had Williams ask the coaches if he could join the team as a walk-on. Thomas worked his way into a playing role for the past three seasons, and he started two games this year (against UCLA and SMU).

Williams has started every game this season, accumulating 36 tackles and forcing three fumbles. Thomas, meanwhile, has seen action in 11 games and has a total of nine tackles and a fumble recovery. On Saturday, they will suit up and take the field as teammates. One final time.