MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — One of the biggest questions heading into today’s game between N.C. State and West Virginia at Milan Puskar Stadium was where is the Thomas family going to sit?
Trevor and Michelle Thomas had a choice — sit in the N.C. State section to represent their sons, Thayer and Drake, or hang out near the 50-yard line, surrounded by West Virginia fans.
On the surface, it sounds obvious, but like Michelle’s father, Mike Arcure, said, “There will be nothing but family and friends around you” if you sit with this group of Mountaineer fans.
Arcure, a native of Farmington who has lived in the Fairmont area for decades, will welcome his daughter and family to watch his grandsons play on Mountaineer Field, but they will not be in gold and blue.
Instead, they’ll have on red and white with the Wolfpack. But even though they’ll play for the opposing team, that doesn’t make it any less of a thrill for the Thayer and Drake or their family and friends.
“I know they’re excited to come home, even though they never lived in Fairmont,” Arcure said. “It feels like home to them, I know a lot of people are excited to see them play here.”
Trevor Thomas, son of George Thomas and the late Barbara Thomas, was a prolific high school football player at East Fairmont and received offers to play at Salem, Fairmont State and Shepherd — all a part of the West Virginia Conference — but deep down, he knew he could play Division I, so he decided to enroll at Marshall.
While with the Thundering Herd, Thomas was a three-time all-Southern Conference Selection as a offensive lineman and was a part of three Division I-AA national championship games with the Herd winning it in 1992.
Michelle Thomas, formerly Arcure, went to WVU and graduated first in her class in engineering, but didn’t want to pursue a career down that path. Instead, she went to grad school at Marshall. From there, Michelle and Trevor’s relationship blossomed, and they got married in 1994.
Their oldest son, Thayer, was born in Teays Valley, but did not live there long before moving to Springboro, Ohio. There, Drake was born, but soon after that, the Thomases moved again, this time to Raleigh, N.C., where their third son, Lex, was born, but roots were grown along Tobacco Road.
However, trips were made back north to visit grandparents. Arcure and his wife, Beverly, always welcomed the family home for Thanksgiving, and that also usually meant a trip to Morgantown for the Pitt game.
“That was the most hyped game of the year,” Thayer said. “I’ve seen the best of the best, it’s a crazy environment. Probably isn’t the best environment for little kids to be at, which I was.”
But because of their father’s background, Marshall was the top school in their hearts, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t root for the Mountaineers when the situation was right.
“We were West Virginia fans for the most part when they weren’t playing Marshall,” Drake said. “When we didn’t have football and could get up there to watch a game, we would.”
But when the time came for Thayer to begin his college recruitment, the offers didn’t roll in as quickly as many assumed. A broken collarbone during his senior year slowed the process, but when assistant coaches at N.C. State saw him play, they liked Thayer more than other highly recruited prospects on his high school team at Heritage (N.C.).
From there, he received an invited walk-on position. Three years later, he’s now on scholarship and is a starting receiver and punt returner for the Wolfpack. He has 479 receiving yards and three touchdowns in his career through two games into his sophomore season.
Thayer feels no hard feelings toward WVU for not receiving an offers — there is more animosity toward the Herd.
“I took it more personal when Marshall didn’t look at me more,” he said. “It’s not a Power Five school. West Virginia is a little bit more higher up there.”
Drake, on the other hand, received 35 offers in high school, West Virginia included. He decided to stay in Raleigh when his older brother earned a scholarship of his own at N.C. State, but he never gave WVU much consideration.
“I never got a chance to visit. I really didn’t talk to them much. It wasn’t really much communication going back and forth,” he said.
The brothers will still get a chance to play in the stadium they used to watch the likes of Pat White, Steve Slaton, Geno Smith and Tavon Austin play in.
Their cousin Rhett Heston is a walk-on at WVU and was a member of the Fairmont Senior state title team in 2018.
“With all of my family and my friends being around and being able to watch us play, it’s going to be a cool experience,” Thayer said.
The Arcures plan on visiting their grandsons at Lakeview Golf Resort and Spa on Friday night after the Wolfpack make its trip to Morgantown.
“We don’t have any control over wins and losses or how they play, but all we ask is they don’t get hurt,” Mike Arcure said. “That’s all we ask for. Otherwise, this is going to be a really fun weekend.”
And even if neither lived in West Virginia for a significant period of time, it holds a special place in them. This game was circled on the calendar.
“That’s home,” Drake said.