The 6' 5", 240 pound athlete is just that, an athlete.
"That is what people do not realize about Thad; he has been a 3 sports athlete for us since 6th grade. Thad has been around a lot of different coaches and teachers. A lot of people have gotten to know him, and you will never hear a negative word said about him. That is what type of character the young man has. His brother has a severe case of autism, and he goes home right after school to care for him. They have a special bond, and Thad has had to grow up quicker than most. If you just saw the way he takes care of his brother, you would know what type of person he is. Ole Miss is getting a special player. He is a 6' 5" athlete, and there is no telling how much weight he will gain. He could be a DE, TE, or if he gains a lot of weight, DT or OT. We are really excited he gets to go down to Ole Miss and play for Coach Nutt. What a job he did this year. Coach Nutt inspires his players, and that is what attracted Thad to Ole Miss. The love that their staff has for the game."
Where does Ole Miss see McHaney on the next level?
"I know Coach Austin is really excited about him coming off of the edge. He has long arms, a real long wing span. I could see him starting at defensive end and taking a redshirt. But if they needed him to go to TE the next season, he would have the tools to do that. Or vise versa. He is just so versatile. Thad has that thick bone structure and stands 6' 5". He is going to put on 25 to 30 pounds of good weight probably in the next year or so. He is around 235 to 240 right now."
Thad still does not know where he will end up at Ole Miss.
"I am not quite sure which position I am better at, to be quite honest," added Thad McHaney. "I guess I will just get up there and find out. I think I am pretty much equal between TE and DE right now, but obviously I will develop at one position better than the other when I get down there."
What are Thad's strengths on the field?
"On offense, he is such a good blocker," added Coach Montgomery. "He graded out at 91% on the season. He played like a 6th offensive lineman for us because we had Alex Bullard at left tackle, who is going to Notre Dame, and then we had Thad basically playing right tackle for us. We had two runners rush for over 1, 000 yards for us. On defense, he can just get after the passer. He is good at blocking to his point of attack. Thad has long arms and plays so well to his pad leverage. We really did not play him that much on defense until the end of the year. Looking back on it, I probably made a mistake by not playing him at end more. In his limited time at end, he got 5 sacks, 14 tackles for losses, 4 pass breakups. That was just so disruptive for us there. But what really separates Thad from everyone else is his speed for someone his size. He runs the 200 meter for our track team and runs a 23.00 flat. You will not see too many 6' 5", 240 pound guys running a 23.00 flat. It is amazing to watch. He covers 10 yards for every two strides he takes. Thad had played for three track state championship teams at Brentwood Academy. He runs the 200 meter, 4 by 400, relay, and he throws the discus for us. The kid is just an outstanding athlete."
In the end, why did Mr. Football Finalist select Ole Miss?
"I think it was the relationship he had with Coach Austin," stated Coach Montgomery. "I think Thad felt at home when we went down there to their camp. He just gelled with that staff. He also felt really comfortable on their campus. But the clincher was Coach Nutt and how he carries a family atmosphere with his team. Coach Nutt fills his staff full of high character coaches, and they go out and recruit high character players. Thad knew that by just being around those guys this summer. But it is more than character that wins games. You also have to have the will to compete, and what better coach to get you to compete at your highest level than Coach Nutt. He just inspires those kids to play so hard and so smart. I just think Thad found a home with that staff, not only Coaches Austin and Nutt, but the other staff members he became close with like Coaches Austin and Shibest. Now the only thing they have to figure out is who will win the battle to get him at their position (laugh). There will probably be a lot of arm wrestling going on with those coaches to see which coach gets him at his position (laugh)."
Thad reiterated the same points.
"I am sitting here watching them preview Ole Miss playing Texas Tech in the Cotton bowl," added Thad. "I mean, they have turned that program 180 degrees in just one year. I like the direction they are going, and I like the people and environment around that program. It was just the best school for me."
Who else was involved with Thad's recruitment?
"I was offered by Tennessee, Vandy, Ole Miss, Auburn, South Carolina, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisville, Marshall, Oregon, and UCLA, but it really came down to Ole Miss and Vandy."
What made Vandy so
"A lot of the same things that made Ole Miss so attractive for me. I like the people who run that program, and I like the direction that their program is headed. It was a tough decision, but I made the right decision. I actually came to my decision last week, but I wanted to sit on it for a week and really talk it over with my parents. I have crossed all of my "T's" and dotted my "I's", and I could not be anymore sure that I made the right decision."
Thad has not scheduled his official visit with Ole Miss yet due to him being in the middle of his basketball season, but he expects for the visit to take place in January at some point.