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Tennessee Football: Vols DL Omari Thomas proves to be a rare leader with invite to attend second SEC Media Days

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It’s rare for a player to attend SEC Media Days two years in a row if the school picks the players going based on leadership. After all, the leaders are the veterans on the team, so they come and go. That’s the route Tennessee Football head coach Josh Heupel has gone.

What’s even more rare in that realm, though, is for a defensive tackle to go twice. They aren’t typically leaders given their role. As a result, Omari Thomas getting set to attend his second straight SEC Media Days speaks volumes about his value to the team beyond what anybody could have expected.

Thomas will join Keenan Pili and Cooper Mays in representing Tennessee Football at the event in Dallas, which was announced on Monday and is set to begin Monday, July 15 while lasting through Thursday, July 18. Last year, he went with Joe Milton III and Jacob Warren, two sixth-year seniors.

Make no mistake, this news is a major testament to his character. Thomas is the anchor of a unit that turns superstars out of edge rushers. Rodney Garner is the favorite assistant on the Tennessee Football staff, and he’s hard-nosed, so Thomas’ attendance comes from his recommendation.

Being able to leapfrog so many other people as a defensive tackle who has already gone means he truly is the type of leader you want. Not since John Henderson have the Vols had such a notable, vocal leader at the position who the rest of the unit clearly looks to.

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Mays makes sense. He’s the leader of the offense and a veteran. Pili has truly emerged for the defense at linebacker despite not playing all last year due to injury. Heupel picking Thomas with Pili, though, is shocking. It’s not just about Thomas being a defensive lineman going twice.

Remember, Heupel prioritizes his offense in his system and makes a point to put that on display. As a result, he could have chosen another offensive veteran, like Bru McCoy. Instead, he is going with two defensive guys just so he can send Thomas, a defensive lineman, again.

Elephant in the room: If Heupel were going for star power, he’d have sent Nico Iamaleava, James Pearce Jr. and Mays. Pili with Mays still makes sense. Thomas, though, isn’t just playing a position that doesn’t involve vocal leadership. He’s really only a solid player there, not any sort of star.

To the Tennessee Football team, though, Thomas clearly is a star. He’s been a quiet hero for the program for a while, and now he’s getting his respect for it. Once again, on the field later this year, he’ll focus on freeing up Pearce to wreak havoc, but flying under the radar to help others clearly doesn’t mean he isn’t vocal.

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