Former five-star recruit Xavier Thomas will return for his senior season with Clemson in 2021, according to an announcement by the Tigers.
In a tweet Monday evening, the verified Clemson football Twitter account published a video of Thomas with the caption, "'Hello, No. 3!' And welcome back for 2021, No. 3."
He originally intended to play four games and redshirt after complications from offseason bouts with COVID-19 and strep throat but ultimately worked back for seven contests while taking advantage of a blanket-eligibility waiver by the NCAA. Thomas totaled 11 tackles (four for loss), 3 1/2 sacks and one forced fumble in 119 through seven games (one start).
"I'm actually feeling a lot better," Thomas said Nov. 2. "I mean, it's really a week-to-week thing. I'm feeling much better each week. I'm getting better each week. Really, it was just coming back in the summer, I was just really winded. My breathing wasn't really good, coming back, coming from COVID, just really affecting me. Really rough for me. And then I was starting to make a little bit of progress and got strep, which put me back even more. So I'm really feeling good now. Each week, I'm getting ... a lot of good days and a lot of good weeks that I'm making progress every week."
During the battles with COVID-19 and strep throat, Thomas saw a weight gain of 10-12 pounds. Factoring in mental exhaustion and a lack of conditioning, the road back was long for Thomas, who Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney said essentially lost "March to July" but worked back with August and September.