[By Mike Craven, Special to ETSN.fm}

Van High School running back Aphonso Thomas is off to a hot start.

The Nebraska commit has 265 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries through two games, despite playing sparingly in wins over Spring Hill and Palestine. It didn’t take long for head coach Jared Moffatt to recognize he had a player on his hands.

“I saw him as a fifth grader and thought we had a future player on our hands. He had that kind of athleticism and body at that age. We don’t have a ton of kids like that walking around Van, so it was easy to see,” Moffatt said. “He started for us in the secondary as a freshman, but then he missed most of his sophomore year with injury. He worked very hard to get back.”

Thomas is the complete package, a rare quality in a running back at the Class 4A level. He stands at 6-feet, 190 pounds, and possesses the speed and power to score from anywhere on the field and overpower guys for tough yards around the goal line.

Van RB Aphonso Thomas. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

“The first thing that stands out is his breakaway speed. He can score from anywhere on the field and that takes tremendous pressure off of our offense because we don’t always have to put together 13-play drives to score,” Moffatt said. “He’s a strong runner, though. He is tough to bring down. It is very rare that one player can tackle him. He’s going to break tackles and work for yards.”

It isn’t just the natural skills that impress his head coach and college recruiters.

“He’s worked very hard to get to where he is at and he’s a really good kid,” Moffatt explained. “No one outside of the coaches and college recruiters probably notice this because of all his highlights, but he can really block. He’s a great blocker and always has been. And I think that is what makes him truly special, he’s a team guy. He split carries as a junior and could’ve been selfish about it and wanted big stats, but he does what is best for the team. It is hard to find star players who are tremendous team players and never puts themselves over the team. He’s always been like that.”

Thomas’ presence alone helps Van, a team with district championship hopes in 2015.

“If you’re going to be good on offense you need to be able to do multiple things and he helps us because so much attention is paid to him,” Moffatt said. “Teams load the box to stop him and that allows us to pass the ball down the field.”

Van sits at 2-0 entering a rivalry game against Lindale.

“The Lindale game is always a great experience and it’ll be important to our team because this is the best Lindale team I’ve seen in a few years. Those guys shut out Chapel Hill and nearly beat Carthage. We’re in for a challenge and it’ll be a great test to our team,” Moffatt said. “The most impressive thing about Lindale is they’re so well-rounded. It isn’t a rivalry full of hate or anything like that, but we’re 12 miles from each other so it is always fun. I’m looking forward to seeing how our team responds.”