On the weekend of Oct. 25, Bradenton (IMG Academy), Fla., linebacker and Wisconsin verbal commit Nick Thomas finally had a chance to meet some of his future teammates on his official visit to Madison.
"They've known each other and met each other before, but this last weekend was the first time that I got to meet them," the three-star commit said. "It was great."
Coming in the Thursday before the Maryland game, Thomas and his parents met with Wisconsin coaches and were able to visit the campus area. After the visit, the three-star athlete says he "just can't wait to get down there."
The 6'2, 230-pound inside linebacker originally gave his verbal commitment in mid-June, but kept in touch with his fellow Class of 2015 commits via a group chat the players set up. Some of the recruits, including Sandy (Jordan), Utah quarterback Austin Kafentzis, Santa Ana (Mater Dei), Calif., tight end Kyle Penniston and Barnegat, N.J., offensive linemen Sam Madden met in-person at one of Wisconsin's camps during the summer.
It was Thomas' first gameday experience at Camp Randall Stadium, where he'll spend his collegiate career starting in January. Joining him as early enrollees into Wisconsin are Kafentzis and Penniston. With five of Wisconsin's 22 known commits on campus on homecoming weekend, it was a chance to grab some face time.
"We got along real well," Thomas said. "We're a great group. We're really all very close."
Thomas committed to Wisconsin on June 12 after an unofficial visit. The Badgers were the first offer the No. 40 inside linebacker (per Scout.com) after hearing from many coaches that their programs would offer them.
After Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda visited one of IMG's spring practices in mid-May, Thomas received his offer two days later.
"I had never heard of recruitment from Wisconsin, and I always wanted to play Big Ten [conference football], and I got that call," Thomas said.
"It was [Aranda], and he said that he had offered me. I don't know, it was just like a dream come true."
Thomas came to IMG from rural Kansas. He was a multi-sport athlete, competing in football, baseball, basketball and track and field, but not many college programs were looking at him in that area of the country. He initially didn't think much of moving at first.
That was until a phone call to Thomas' father from Ascenders head coach -- and former Heisman Trophy winner -- Chris Weinke, asking Thomas to come down to Florida for a visit.
"After my visit, I knew that I needed to come down here," Thomas said, "so after my sophomore year I immediately came down here and been here ever since."
IMG Academy finished its season 10-1 and is currently ranked the No. 1 high school in the state of Florida -- No. 21 nationally -- by MaxPreps.com. Thomas wore No. 44 and registered 82 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and four sacks during the 2014 season.
The inside linebacker said there wasn't any definitive word from Wisconsin coaches about whether he'd play either the "mac" middle or the "rover" inside linebacker positions, though he said he's willing to play either position.
Along with the weather on that summer trip and the scenery of Madison helping him make his decision on the Badgers, Thomas noted the influence of and the relationship with Aranda as one of the major reasons he pledged his commitment.
"Coach Aranda really sold Wisconsin for me," Thomas said. "He's a great guy. He's humble. He's a family man and he's very smart. He knows defense. He knows what he's talking about, and I can sit there and have an intelligent conversation with him about anything -- about football, about schemes, about baseball, about anything -- I love that. I love that about him.
"I just thought it was the perfect place for me to come, so I committed."