By RICK PETERSON
Despite the jaw-dropping stats that he put up at Topeka High, former Trojans superstar running back Ky Thomas knew that making the jump to Division I football at Minnesota would be an adjustment.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which hit shortly after Thomas arrived on Minnesota's campus, complicated that transition, as did a labrum injury.
But as the 6-foot, 205-pound tailback prepares for his second college season, Thomas feels like that process is finally complete and that he's ready to show what he can contribute to the Gophers.
"It probably took me until now, the whole year,'' Thomas said this week during a trip home to Topeka. "Now I'm comfortable, now I know the system and now I know how everything goes and I know what to expect.''
Thomas, who rushed for 3,009 yards as a senior, graduated early from Topeka High after ending his prep career as the No. 2 career rusher in Kansas history (7,703 yards) and reported to Minnesota early in 2020, but ended up back in Topeka after the coronavirus shut down the Minnesota campus and of course Gopher football operations.
Thomas was looking for a new start last fall but a nagging injury from his Topeka High days eventually required surgery.
"I ended up getting surgery on my labrum,'' said Thomas, a redshirt freshman. "It was an injury I had in high school that I didn't know about, and then when I got up (to Minnesota) they finally figured it out.''
But Thomas, who is scheduled to return to Minnesota Thursday, said he's healthy and feeling good about his situation as he gets ready for the start of fall practice.
"I'd never been injured before, so with the injury and getting used to school and adapting to something new, it was a tough first semester for sure, but now I feel like it's home,'' he said.
The next step in Thomas' growth process is to earn playing time for the Gophers this season.
"I like my chances of getting on the field,'' he said. "I've just been learning from a lot of the running backs who have been there. Mohamed Ibrahim was the Big 10 running back of the year last year and I've been watching him and learning from him.
"I just have to go in there and compete, put my head down and work.''