Clemson Football: Xavier Thomas's long journey to the NFL lands him in Arizona

Xavier Thomas played in the 2018 National Championship Game. Today, he finally reached his NFL destination.
Feb 28, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Clemson defensive lineman Xavier Thomas
Feb 28, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Clemson defensive lineman Xavier Thomas / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2018 if you had told me, or most Clemson fans, that Xavier Thomas wouldn't get into the NFL until 2024, I would have called you crazy. He sure seemed like a guy who was on a three-year path to the pros.

After years of illness and injury, Thomas has finally found a home in the league. The Arizona Cardinals drafted him in the 5th round, pick 183 overall.

Thomas was a 5-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite who hails from Florence, South Carolina. He played his final season of high school football at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Thomas showed his potential as a freshman, despite being behind future NFL players Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant on the depth chart. He became a starter in a 3-4 alignment as a sophomore, which didn’t play to Thomas’s strengths.

2020 was devastating to Thomas’s health. He acquired COVID-19 and strep throat consecutively. He also dealt with depression and weight gain.

“Going through that depression year was what developed me in regards to my faith and growing in my faith. That’s what really kept me going…always keeping my faith and trusting in God through everything, regardless of whatever I went through.”

Thomas bounced back with a solid 2021 season but was injured before 2022 started. He only played in three games and elected to come back for one more season in 2023, which would be his sixth in the program.

Thomas is considered something of a tweener by pro scouts (defensive end or linebacker), but regardless of position, he is built to stay in the pros. Injuries will be a concern, but there are few players who are as physically well-conditioned as Thomas.

Thomas was the fourth Clemson Football player selected, following Nate Wiggins (Ravens), Ruke Orhorhoro (Falcons), and Will Shipley (Eagles).