Around this time last year, Thomas Shrader was coming off his sophomore season playing for the Venice football team, and he wasn’t satisfied with the results.
After starting offensive lineman Ryan Detert was injured early in the 2017 season, Shrader was thrust into his role as the next man up, and was pushed around as he tried to keep up with the strength of his varsity teammates.
When the offseason came, Shrader promised to himself that would never happen again.
“Sophomore year I had a really rough year, but over the offseason I gained weight and worked on my craft,” he said. “I was getting beat a lot of the time compared to this year.
“I came into the spring in my sophomore season, and I was like, ‘Yeah, this is gonna be a different year. I’m gonna be a totally different player and show my true talents.’ And that’s what I did my junior season.”
The offensive tackle spent his spring and summer in the weight room, adding 40 pounds to his now 6-foot-5, 278-pound frame to better prepare himself for the rigors of football.
Part of his offseason work included joining the Indians boys weightlifting team, which has helped him increase his bench to 305 pounds, his squat to 415 pounds and his clean and jerk lift to 280 pounds.
Now, a year later, it’s clear that Shrader’s efforts have paid off.
Along with breaking out for a first-team All-Area season in which he was hardly beat on any plays, the junior has also started to reel in some big-time college offers.
In total, the junior left tackle has received offers from USF, Western Kentucky, Coastal Carolina, Old Dominion, Troy, Tulane, Syracuse, Minnesota, Louisiana-Monroe, Kentucky, Iowa State, Indiana, FIU, Duke, Boston College, Wake Forest and Florida State — with most offers coming in the past two months alone.
With 17 offers already in hand and another season left to play at Venice High, Shrader is likely going to face a tough decision as even more schools come calling. But while the flood of recent offers have seemingly come out of nowhere, those who have watched the physical offensive lineman aren’t surprised.
“I think the most impressive thing and the biggest thing he’s shown on film is just finishing plays,” Venice football coach John Peacock said. “That’s one of the hardest things to learn as an offensive lineman in high school.
“A lot of kids like to do the Pop Warner bump where they just bump chests with somebody and think they’ve done their job. But last year he finished his plays, and that’s what college coaches are looking for: kids who finish plays and play with a little nasty streak in them.”
Shrader has been attending offseason camps such the Under Armour All-America Camp in Orlando and 247Sports analyst John Garcia named the junior lineman in his ‘Top 5’ players for the camp.
“Venice three-star offensive tackle Thomas Shrader made the camp’s ‘final five’ after spending much of the afternoon working at left tackle,” Garcia wrote in his report. “He was beat on the speed rush by Chantz Williams, but outside of that looked very athletic and showed quick feet, which is encouraging.”
SB Nation national recruiting director Bud Elliot was also impressed with Shrader at the Under Armour Orlando camp, listing him as one of his “eight players who look better than their early rankings and offers might suggest.”
“Venice offensive tackle Thomas Shrader is a lean 6-foot-4, 275 (pounds) and moves well,” Elliot wrote. “He drew some tough matchups on Sunday and held his own. It will be interesting to see how he develops as he adds the necessary 30-40 pounds in the coming years.”
Going forward into his final season at Venice, the junior lineman hopes to win one more state championship and has the goal of “not getting beat on any play all season,” which could be a tall task going against one of the toughest schedules in the state.
But when it comes to all the newfound attention and offers from schools around the country, Shrader is simply enjoying what he said is a dream come true.
“It’s pretty exciting knowing that schools want me there,” Shrader said. “Some schools are recruiting me hard right now. I have one school texting me every day. It’s been fun and crazy at the same time.
“As a kid, I’d be like, ‘I’m gonna make it to the next level.’ And people would be like, ‘No, you’re not.’ Now that it’s finally happening, it’s pretty sweet.”