Ratcliff Thomas was a standout player on the University of Maryland football team and spent several years in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts.
But wherever Thomas' athletic prowess and know-how might have taken him after high school, he will always consider himself a Titan.
Thomas, one of T.C. Williams' greatest all-around athletes, was a dominant high school football force at both linebacker and running back under former Titans coach Glenn Furman, and he commanded respect with his uncanny quickness and bruising strength on the basketball court.
"Ratcliff was an outstanding athlete," said Furman, who coached the Titans from 1982 through '91 with an outstanding overall win-loss record of 94-23-2. "Ratcliff would play wherever you wanted him to. He could play two-way [offense and defense] every game. He was an all-around player — an outstanding running back [and] we used him to return kickoffs."
Thomas has always had a true passion for things red, white, and blue — T.C.'s team colors. In September of 2000, he returned to T.C. Williams to have his football jersey No. 29 retired during halftime of a T.C. game versus Herndon. Thomas, that day, spoke from his heart in regards to his love for the Alexandria city public high school.
"It seems I'll always play for T.C. Williams," Thomas told an interviewer that autumn day. "Once you're a Titan, you're always a Titan."
Thomas, an outstanding linebacker during his collegiate career at College Park with the Terrapins, spent three years with the NFL's Colts from 1998 through 2000 as a backup linebacker and special teams player. During the 1999 season, the 6-foot, 240-pounder played in all 16 of Indianapolis' games.
Thomas, who was born in Alexandria in January of 1974, always had a desire to play sports.
"We thought [of his athletic potential] when he was a kid, the way he played ball around the house," commented his father, Ratcliff Thomas Sr., several years ago about his energetic son.
Added his mother, Rose Thomas, "Ever since he was age three, he was always into sports —football or basketball. He always had a good coach — his father."
As a T.C. Williams basketball senior, Thomas was selected to the Gazette's All-Region boys basketball team. In a thumbnail description of the savvy guard, the write-up of Thomas, who averaged 20 points, five rebounds and 4.5 assists that season, read, "A fierce competitor, he's got a nice outside jump shot and plenty of quickness for slashing moves to the hoop."
Other members of that season's Gazette First Team were: West Potomac's Stacy Harris, South Lakes' Joey Beard, W.T. Woodson's Greg Williams, and Chantilly's Darryl Franklin, that winter's Player of the Year.
Another former University of Maryland football star who went on to play in the NFL was Edison High School's Eric Barton, a linebacker who enjoyed eight seasons in the league.
Barton, born in 1977, spent the 1999 through 2003 seasons with the Raiders. During that four-year period, Barton played in all 48 of the Raiders' regular season contests. In 2002 he was in on 125 tackles for the season and had six sacks and two interceptions. The following season, he was in on 132 tackles and had six pass deflections. He spent the 2004 and '05 seasons playing for the Jets.
Barton, a 1995 graduate of Edison, was a fifth round draft pick by the Raiders out of the University of Maryland. As a collegiate player for the Terps, he led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 159 tackles and earned First Team All-Conference as a senior in 1998.
As an Edison senior in the fall of 1994, Barton earned All-Northern Region honors.
Ratcliff Thomas is 46 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.