Elbert Thomas III is described by his teammates as a quiet, low-key guy.
The consummate leader, but not the rah-rah type.
You won’t find the senior receiver walking around the halls of Isidore Newman School boasting about his accomplishments on the football field.
Even his most recent one.
But even the humble Thomas couldn’t hold back his smile when talking about it, especially the exclusive company he joined last week when he eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the season.
Thomas has caught 67 passes for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, putting him behind only Cooper Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. in the uptown school’s record book.
“It’s rewarding,” Thomas said. “Those are some pretty big names, and my name is up there with them. It’s a big accomplishment. I don’t really care too much about personal records, but it’s a reflection of the team. It’s great to have my name on the board with those two great players.”
Thomas can add to that total Friday when the Greenies travel to Baton Rouge to take on Episcopal in the opening round of the Division III playoffs.
He needs just a little over 100 yards to pass Beckham, Jr., the second-year receiver for the New York Giants and another 242 yards to catch Manning.
He’ll probably need at last two more games to catch Manning, the eldest of Archie’s and Olivia’s three sons.
He’s been to the go-to man for sophomore quarterback Miles Lapeyre in the Newman offense. The two have made sure the Greenies offense hasn’t skipped a beat, filling the giant void left from last season’s team that featured running back Kendall Bussey (now at Texas A&M) and Jay Tyler (now at Stanford).
Lapeyre said he can always count on the guy he and the rest of the team call “Bert.”
“You have Friday night players, and you have practice players,” Lapeyre said. “Bert is one of those players who is both. You can tell by watching him in practice. Every route he runs is 150 percent, and he runs every route as if the best cornerback in the world is on him.”
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Thomas says that’s the only way he knows how to play.
“I think that’s just how he’s wired,” said his mother Monita Thomas. “He’s always been that way.”
Mrs. Thomas teaches at Newman, making school days almost a family affair. Elbert’s younger brother Erron is a sophomore on the team and his sister Eriel is a freshman volleyball player.
Thomas started out as a quarterback when he was younger, says his father Elbert Thomas Jr., but eventually moved to receiver.
He’s always worn No. 13, long before Beckham began wearing that number in the NFL after wearing No. 3 at Newman and LSU.
“I’ve liked that number since I was little,” Thomas says. “He (Beckham) chose that number because of me. At least that’s what I like to tell people.”
The number hadn’t been worn much in recent years at Newman. Former Newman standout Nate Stibbs, one of Peyton Manning’s top receivers, wore the number in the ’90s.
“We brought it back out because Elbert wanted it, and it’s been pretty lucky for him,” Newman coach Nelson Stewart said.
Beckham, of course, is his favorite player.
“I see him play and think maybe one day I can be in the same position,” Thomas said.
College interest has been slow so far for Thomas, who lived in Gentilly before the family moved to Algiers after Hurricane Katrina.
He has drawn the most interest from Southern, Southeastern Louisiana and Tulane.
“He is still under the radar, but I think that will change soon,” Stewart said. “His production and consistency every week is hard to ignore. I think he is going to be a gem for somebody, and they will be getting a steal.”
He had over 700 receiving yards as a junior.
Stewart knew Thomas was in for a special season this summer when he saw him going up against some of the nation’s top cornerbacks in the Drew Brees 7-on-7 competition in Florida.
“That was the moment when I saw him against national players and how he really excelled and was on an elite level,” Stewart said. “You could see his route-running and separation and attention to details. It’s just the way he goes about his work.”
It doesn’t stop on the football field. He also plays basketball and runs track. He admits playing three sports isn’t always easy.
“Academically, being at this school is where it gets even tougher,” he said. “It doesn’t give you a lot of time to sit and relax.”
Not that Thomas would ever just relax anyway.
“I strive to be the best I can every day,” he said. “I have to leave everything on the field. I don’t want to leave here with any regrets.”