NC State linebacker Drake Thomas has decision to make: NFL or stay with Pack

N.C. State linebacker Drake Thomas said Wednesday he has not made a decision on whether to apply for the 2023 NFL draft or remain with the Wolfpack for another season.

Thomas, who joined his older brother, Thayer, in addressing the Raleigh Sports Club, said he continues to gather information and gauge where he might be selected should he enter the draft.

“I’m just taking in as much feedback as I can from my coaches, and whatever they’re hearing from scouts and GMs (general managers) and front-office people,” Drake Thomas said in his remarks to the club. “I’m trying to get all the information I can to make sure I make the most knowledgeable decision I can, to make sure I have all the information before I decide.

“It basically comes down to if I’m a solidified draft pick and I feel like I have a good shot at getting drafted, then I think the good decision is to go. But I think if there’s some chance I could go undrafted and it’s not guaranteed I’m going to play football anymore, I think that’s when you come back. Because you love football.”

Thomas, who has a year of eligibility remaining, said he did plan on playing in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl against Maryland on Dec. 30 in Charlotte.

N.C. State linebacker Drake Thomas (32) celebrates after sacking Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman during the second half of N.C. State’s 30-21 victory over Wake Forest at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022.
N.C. State linebacker Drake Thomas (32) celebrates after sacking Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman during the second half of N.C. State’s 30-21 victory over Wake Forest at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022.

Thomas was chosen to AP’s first-team All-ACC team this week at linebacker. He led the Wolfpack (8-4, 4-4 ACC) with 90 total tackles, 6.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss — his TFL’s leading the ACC in conference games.

NCSU coach Dave Doeren said late in the season that in one pregame conversation, then-Louisville coach Scott Satterfield told him Thomas was the ACC’s best defender. Thomas was a second-team All-ACC choice in the vote of 51 members and 14 ACC coaches, but was third in the defensive player-of-the-year vote as Pitt’s Calijah Kancey won the award.

Thomas was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2021, when he had 100 tackles and three of his four career interceptions. The Pack played a lot of that season without injured linebackers Isaiah Moore and Payton Wilson, who both returned this season to give the Pack’s one of the nation’s best linebacking corps.

During his comments to the club, Thomas said he injured his knee during the 2020 season and was told by team doctors that he might be sidelined for six months. Instead, he played the next week.

“I’d never never been hurt like that before, I’d never experienced that,” he said. “Other injuries, whatever they were, I had played through. That was a reality check that I’m not invincible.”

N.C. State linebacker Drake Thomas (32) and defensive end Travali Price (58) sack North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) during the second half of N.C. State’s 30-27 overtime victory over UNC at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C., Friday, Nov. 25, 2022.
N.C. State linebacker Drake Thomas (32) and defensive end Travali Price (58) sack North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) during the second half of N.C. State’s 30-27 overtime victory over UNC at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C., Friday, Nov. 25, 2022.

Two weeks later, Thomas said, he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in a tackling drill at practice — the same injury that was a season-ender for Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary this year.

“Completely off the bone, in two spots,” Thomas said. “Doctor said I needed surgery. It was another setback. I accepted the fact I wasn’t going to play … for about a week.”

Allowed to play, Thomas said he finished out the season by playing four games with the torn muscle. Only then did he have surgery, missing spring practice but using the rehab and recovery time to “slim down and eat right” and returning for the 2021 season in better condition.

“I credit it to all the hardship I went through, to that injury,” said Thomas, a highly recruited player at Heritage High in Wake Forest who received his first scholarship offer from Michigan as a sophomore.

The past two seasons have been productive for a linebacker listed at 6 feet and 230 pounds, one with a big decision to make.