Ian Thomas played a key role in Franklin's run to the state Class 3A football championship game last season. The 6-foot-1, 193-pound wide receiver caught 50 passes for 953 yards and 15 touchdowns and was also a standout at free safety. He made two touchdown catches in a 21-14 loss to Wilde Lake in the state final, including a toe-tapper in the corner of the end zone. Rated a three-star receiver and the No. 3 receiver in the state by Rivals.com, the senior is being recruited by Notre Dame, Iowa, Maryland, Boston College, Stanford, Rutgers and Vanderbilt. He has a 3.2 grade-point average and plans to study chemical engineering.

How did you get started playing football?

I got started when my dad put me in little league rec. I liked how to play the game. I liked playing defense. I liked playing offense. I liked everything about it.

What positions did you play when you were a little guy?

I was [a] safety and I played tight end in rec, because in rec, you don't throw the ball, you just run, so I was a blocking tight end. You might pass once or twice a season.

When did football become your passion?

Probably my sophomore year. That happened because I realized how good I could be. Freshman year, my coach put me up to varsity after the third or fourth week and I started playing defense. Then sophomore year, I played offense and defense and that's when I decided I could be pretty good at this.

What do you like about playing receiver?

Catching touchdown passes. Really, that's it, getting the ball in my hands and making the play with it.

What did it feel like to catch two touchdown passes in the state final last year?

That's like a once-in-a-lifetime thing, as a high school player, to be able to score at Ravens' Stadium. It was a great feeling.

¿¿What was the highlight of last year’s run to the state final?

I would say the highlight was probably the Perry Hall game (35-26 win). We were up like 3 and we were getting the ball. They punted the ball and everybody yelled, “Poison” (to let the ball drop) and I still got the ball and I returned it for a touchdown. The team highlight was definitely beating the Hereford Bulls at their house. We hadn’t beaten them in I don’t know how long. I don’t know if we ever beat them and we put a good beating on them (47-14) at their house and in the playoffs as well.

How is this season going to be different after losing two-thirds of the Three Musketeers with running back Mark Venable and quarterback Joey Dorsey graduating?

New leaders. New guys stepping up and taking the place of the guys from last year. Guys like me, Anthony Taylor and Cyril Nuworso taking that leader role. We can only go as far as we lead them with the younger guys. We have a lot of juniors playing, and sophomores. We're not that senior heavy this year.

Is leadership an easy role for you?

Actually, it's not at all. I wish it was. It's something I definitely have to work at, getting these guys on my back and saying the right things when the team needs it. Like somebody is maybe not having a great practice, tap him on the butt, saying, "Come on man. You'll get the next play" or something. Leadership is something that I definitely have to work on, and my coach [Anthony Burgos] urged me to be a leader.

How does the team move on from last year’s success without kind of relying on last year’s success?

My coach talked to us about it. We’ve got to wipe that out. This year’s team, we can’t live off of what last year’s team did. This is a whole new team of guys stepping up at different positions. We’ve got to put in the groundwork just like last year’s team did. We can’t even think about last year’s run to the state title.