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Posted on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

Michigan football fans: Thomas Rawls looks the part, but can he back up the hype?

By Nick Baumgardner


Will Michigan football running back Thomas Rawls (right) have plenty of celebratory moments in 2012?

Melanie Maxwell |

It's been a longstanding quip among pop culture enthusiasts and a pumped-up myth across the Internet for years.

When it comes to superhuman traits, perhaps no one embodies the phrase more than Chuck Norris.

Well, from the close of Michigan football spring practice through the first two weeks of fall camp, one thing seems to be clear among Wolverine coaches.

Chuck Norris has nothing on Thomas Rawls.

Rawls, the little-used Michigan sophomore running back with the build of a tank, drew some hefty praise from coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges throughout the summer. And, on Sunday, running backs coach Fred Jackson took it to another level.

He looks like Chris Perry, but faster. He moves like Mike Hart, but faster. He hurts people, he runs angry and he loves contact. If you believe Jackson, he even shares more than a hometown with Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.

Rawls' career only contains 13 carries to this point, but through the early stages of August, he's already an all-hype all-American.

On paper, the 218-pound sophomore does appear to have it all. He has the perfect build for a bruising back, his performance in the spring game seemed to make him capable of joining Jackson's incredibly large fraternity of successful college runners and his charming, affable personality at the team's media day quickly won over reporters.

With incumbent starter Fitz Toussaint still currently in limbo for the Alabama game, Rawls may get his chance to prove he can back up Jackson's talk against the defending national champions.

But can he handle it?

Most fans seem excited, but want to see it proved on the field first.

  • MRunner73: Good luck to Thomas Rawls, after talking the talk, he needs to walk the walk. He's setting the bar real high but (if) he delivers, that would be spectacular. We shall see.

  • Steve McQueen: "Thomas is probably, maybe, 5-8. He tells me he's 5-11 and I'm 6-2, I think, and I look down on him and eat soup off his head." That is Classic Fred (Jackson) Sr. Good to see him in regular season form lol.

And then there's the question of durability, something Rawls struggled with in camp early last season. According to Jackson, Rawls was actually ahead of Toussaint on the depth chart in 2011 before a shoulder injury derailed his progress.

  • Scott: He runs tough but how does he keep from getting hurt again? I think he'll be as good, as Touissant, maybe better, but will likely go out with an injury with his running style.

    That's why Touissant is back practicing,. Vincent Smith is just to small to carry the load.

  • Macabre Sunset: It's great to have a guy like Rawls on the team, and there's a huge difference between seeking out contact and wanting to "hurt" defenders and trying to injure someone. Players know the difference.

    But I feel bad for these guys. This is a big part of the reason running backs have incredibly short NFL careers on average. They make an impact right away, but even when you're initiating the contact, the big hits add up quickly.

Others seem hesitant to completely buy into the hype due to the inexperience on Michigan's offensive line. Perry and Hart were phenomenal backs at Michigan, and Toussaint had a terrific year in 2011, but they all ran behind experience up front.

  • Mick52: I question if we are putting too much emphasis on the back and not enough on the O line. As the article points out, Alabama has a top notch D line, so how much can a back so without a line that can counter the defense? What I like about quick backs is their ability to get through a hole before it closes which I think is a great skill of Denard. He seems to be so quick he can get through the holes faster than any runner I have ever seen.

    But if a defense is so good that before you get to the scrimmage line the first player you encounter is a defender it is going to be a long day.

Others? Well, they don't need to see -- or hear -- anything more.

They're convinced.

  • Mohawk: Added Rawls: "I'm ready. No Michigan running back is scared of anyone or anything."

    YES -- I like this guy.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.


Deadra Whitley

Thu, Aug 16, 2012 : 10:16 p.m.

just want to shout out to all the young men on team 133 im thomas rawls #38 mother and these young men work hard (sweat) for the love of the game and also at there school a work in progress with comments i will see but no one knows my son like me he is a hard worker, dedicated, focused i dont talk to him about what i read or comments and he doesnt do the internet never have with that being said the media has to hype and comments being made to describe my son is what they see in practice what all football players must do bring it and he does but he has never out of his mouth said he wants to hurt anybody dont take that all out of text you know football talk im sure you been around for a long time im just gettin in the game but my son is doing what he is there to do work hard at his school work and play for the love of football dont make him into anything else.


Thu, Aug 16, 2012 : 6:58 a.m.

Bigger than Perry but faster. Quicker than Hart (our big brother that was exiled to Kamchatka) but faster. Looks like Drob will be happy with his two Heisman's and Fitzy Toozy will give the job to him. Look out USA for Mr. Rawls!!!!!


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

Nick, I don't understand why these posters are quoted and I am not. They read what I write and then get their ideas off of that. I am the authority on here and you seem to not understand that.

Steve McQueen

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

Thanks for reminding us about your superiority ted.

Pizza Man

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

Is that referee ah.... up that football players ah..... Rear end?

Steve McQueen

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 11:34 p.m.

This is Michigan, not Penn State.

Terry Star21

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 6:49 p.m.

I would say a definite yes - Rawl's can back it up. It is true, he processes Chris Perry's toughness and more. He is much faster, even for his bulk (with his limited playing time thus far, tough to compare to anyone) . And finally, in addition to Mike Hart's elusiveness - he processes a bit of Mike's attitude, albeit minus the arrogance. Yes, all those features are true, but mostly 'on-paper' thus far, so to speak. But the spring game and his impressive showing this summer will hopefully prove him worthy. I want to say that I am not entirely pleased with all this talk about hurting players, even as just talk. Realize when Rawl's carries into the defense, 11 people want to crush him (and yes, hurt him). Rawl's has to turn their attitude in reverse - to succeed, and to survive ! MgoBlueForTiM....bulk, tough and speed - backed up !

Deadra Whitley

Thu, Aug 16, 2012 : 11:05 p.m.

terry i feel how you feel im the mother of thomas rawls but i got upset to see what you put about the media or things that had been said to describe my son about hurting players im with you i wouldnt want anyone to hurt my child or him hurt anybody we know how have to do stories for a read but at same time ive heard football talk thats what i heard im sure your a long time fan of football im just gettiing in the game but i assure you my son is a very humble nice person he is a hard worker on and off the field..

Blu n Tpa

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

LSU/SEC Why? Because you add about as much as a 11 year old texting her friends about a boy she likes in school. You don't defend what you write and for someone who states he/she graduated with a BS degree from LSU, you don't honor your school or team. Instead you hide behind "SEC Fan" and drop what you must think as "wit" which really is "fluff". Your reply above is an excellent example. One sentence and one incomplete phrase ending with the always present... For someone who represents the SEC on a Michigan web site, you need to raise your game because so far you can't compete. And that's why you weren't quoted. TiM Go Blue!


Thu, Aug 16, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

great post BLU N TPA!! secfan bring's nothing to the table except his degree in B.S.! his only agenda is to bash and trash MICHIGAN and the only team he does support is the next team MICHIGAN is going to play!! GO BLUE!!!

Terry Star21

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 6:33 p.m.

Rawl's can back the hype, great attitude and tough ! Blu n Tpa. You are right on. These written articles also seek input from readers on the content, which is essential for Replies. in my 'opinion' that do not address that and joke and poke fun at the content, in my opinion serve no purpose and should not be allowed. Just saying. BTW.......Michigan 20-5 against SEC, 7-1 since 94'.


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

Why ya'll never quote me? that hurts my feelings...


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

In case xmo forgot:


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

xmo, I did not read anywhere in this article that Thomas likes to grab opposing QB's by their facemask and turn their heads all the way around. Maybe I missed that?

Terry Star21

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

Yes. You are correct. Rawl's is not a thug !


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 3:56 p.m.

I wonder if there really is a place for this kind of player in football today? " He hurts people, he runs angry and he loves contact." Sounds like what STATE did to Michigan last year and players got suspended!


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

Steve, That picture is classic! Seen that yesterday, so I sent it to all the MSU fans/alums here at work. KCCO!

Terry Star21

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

Yes there's called success, and he will hurt your team badly on the scoreboard.

Steve McQueen

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 4:24 p.m. Sparty on dude.

Steve McQueen

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

wow i got Fred Jackson does the hyperbole bit every year with his backs. Its part of his charm and is probably a reason why his guys like playing for him. At the same time though, it does set some unreasonable expectations from the Michigan fan base. Luckily though, enough of us who have been paying attention see it for what it is, and we chuckle when we read that stuff. Faster than Mike Hart, better than Mark Ingram... able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Seriously though, if Rawls stays healthy and the line gives him some space to run though, he should be more than adequate to fill in for Fitz.

Nick Baumgardner

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

Steve, there's a reason we reporters all flock to Fred Jackson the minute Michigan makes him available. It happens about twice a year, and it's pure gold every time.