Digital Harbor’s Ian Thomas Drafted by the Carolina Panthers

| April 30, 2018 | 0 Comments

Digital Harbor’s Ian Thomas was selected as the #101 pick in the 4th round of the NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. The tight end played college football at Nassau Community College before transferring to Indiana University for his final two years.

Thomas, who is 6’4″ and 259 lbs, was an honorable mention in the All-Big Ten in 2017 and a John Mackey Award Tight End of the Week winner for his game vs. Georgia Southern. He finished 2017 with 25 catches, 376 yards receiving, and five receiving touchdowns.

The Baltimore Sun profiled Thomas earlier this month, telling the story of his tough upbringing which included the death of both parents. From the article:

In June 2004, on his eighth birthday, Thomas lost his mother, Martha. She ignored a persistent toothache for weeks and an abscess developed. The infection led to kidney and liver failure. A little over a year later, his father, Earl, died of a heart attack. Thomas had yet to turn 10 and suddenly he and his eight siblings were alone.

“It was very hard to deal with, especially for me as a young kid,” Thomas said. “I don’t really know how to explain the feeling, but I know it was hard for me to readjust my life when my parents weren’t there. As a 9-year-old, you have a bunch of questions, a bunch of love to give and get.”

In the months that followed, Thomas estimated that he and his siblings moved five or six times, staying with extended family and friends. They moved in with an uncle, but that arrangement became unsustainable and the uncle voiced a desire to give the kids up for adoption. That’s when Clif Farmer, Thomas’ oldest brother, stepped in.

The article also discussed his experience at Nassau:

Off the field, he experienced some challenges. He felt bad about asking his family back home for money, so he worked two jobs to make sure that he could afford food and rent. He lived in a six-bedroom apartment with 11 other football players. The group was forced to move several times because it missed rent payments.

What Thomas called the low point came when he was informed that several of the courses he took at Nassau were nonaccredited and didn’t count toward his degree. The confusion delayed his departure, but Thomas loaded up on classes and enrolled at Indiana in time for the 2016 season.

Thomas watched the draft on Saturday with this eight brothers and sisters.

At Digital Harbor, Thomas also played basketball and ran track.

The Panthers are excited about their new tight end. They compared Thomas to Antonio Gates in the Charlotte Observer:

Head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney see similar body types (Thomas is 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds; so is Gates), ability to catch in traffic and vertical speed. They both said Saturday afternoon that they feel Thomas, while a bit of an initial project, would probably contribute immediately.

“We think he’s a very good player,” said Hurney. “He’s really got the complete skill set of a complete tight end.”

Carolina needs a No. 2 tight end after the departure of Ed Dickson in free agency. Veteran pass-catching tight end Greg Olsen signed a two-year contract extension Thursday morning, and a complement to him with room to grow into his heir was a necessary addition for the Panthers in this year’s draft.

At Carolina, Thomas will play with a group that is familiar with South Baltimore. Quarterback Cam Newton, who is sponsored by Under Armour, has led offseason passing camps with his receivers and quarterbacks in Baltimore. This has included sessions at Banner Field in Locust Point, which is Digital Harbor Football’s new home, and trips to play volleyball with Baltimore Beach Volleyball at Rash Field, which is just a couple blocks from Digital Harbor.

Photo courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

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Founder and Publisher of, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.