Tahlequah Daily Press

College Sports

August 6, 2013

Former Union standout doing better after severe injury

MIAA football notebook

It is a day Lindenwood football players won’t soon forget. It’s the day that changed Sterling Thomas’ life forever.

On Oct. 27 against Missouri Southern, Thomas suffered a severe spinal cord injury. He was later diagnosed with a cervical level spinal cord injury and was treated in St. Louis until being transferred and admitted to Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Program in Atlanta.

At the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association in Kansas City, Mo., on Monday, Lindenwood head coach Patrick Ross provided an update on Thomas, a former standout at Union High School in Tulsa.

“Sterling could not be doing any better from where he started,” Ross said. “The initial prognosis was not good.  But I talked to him and he sounded like that 19-year old kid that left us.”

Even almost a year later, Ross said he still remembers the hit that Thomas endured.

“It was just unbelievably bad luck,” he said. “It was once-in-a-lifetime impact. It wasn’t poor tackling, just bad luck.”

Despite the aggressive rehabilitation process, Ross said he anticipates Thomas — who was a freshman cornerback last season — being at the Lions’ home opener on Sept. 5.

“He should be there,” Ross said. “And he still has a tough road ahead of him.”

Play right away?

Two area football players that signed with Central Oklahoma in February could be vying for playing time right away in their freshman seasons. Bronchos head coach Nick Bobeck was asked about the prospects of Fort Gibson’s Jake Gandara and Wagoner’s La’teze Clayton playing right away.

“We’ll see; I don’t know,” Bobeck said. “We’ll see how camp goes. Jake probably has a better chance of playing than La’teze does.”

Gandara, a standout tailback for the Tigers in high school, will be behind one of the top running backs in the league in Josh Birmingham.

“I believe he’s the best coming back, along with NSU’s guy (Joel Rockmore),” Bobeck said of Birmingham, who was one of only three running backs to rush for more than 1,000 yards in 2012.

Regardless of whether Gandara or Clayton play, Bobeck has high hopes for his 2013 signing class.

“I feel really good about our recruiting class,” he said.

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