CARY – Marcus Thimios is listed on the Cary-Grove football roster as standing 6 feet tall. But ask him how accurate that is and the senior cornerback admits to having been gifted an inch or two.
He acknowledges he is neither the tallest nor the quickest defensive back around. But Thimios has made up for it with his unwillingness to get beat. Perhaps that’s why he has set himself apart as one of the Trojans’ top big-play defenders, depending on his toughness – rather than size – to outmuscle opposing receivers that often tower over him.
His tenacity makes Thimios a poster boy for the Trojans’ program that over the years, Thimios says, has found a way of making the most of what it has rather than trying to make up for what it doesn’t.
“We’re not the biggest ever; we’re not really the fastest,” Thimios said. “We just rise up to the challenge and make plays against guys who are naturally more talented than us.”
Make no mistake. Thimios isn’t looking for excuses. He is both confident and comfortable at cornerback – a position he moved to from running back late last season. He has quietly become one of C-G’s must trusted defenders, making a name for himself in the Trojans’ secondary although his last name proves to be problematic for those who must pronounce it.
Thimios, who leads the Trojans with five interceptions this season – has lost count of the times his name, Greek in origin, has been butchered by public address announcers. He’s heard any number of variations on Thimios (pronounced THIM-e-us) – something he has just come to live with during C-G’s undefeated season when his name has been called more than at any other time of his career.
“It’s a tough name, so I don’t blame anybody,” Thimios said. “But just about everywhere I go, it’s a different pronunciation which sometimes can get interesting. People just can’t seem to get the “TH” sound.”
Regardless of the way he’s referred to, Thimios has remained consistent in his play for the Trojans. He has always been quick, but adding strength over the offseason has made him more of threat downfield for quarterbacks or receivers who may give in to the urge to overlook him because of his size. But as soon as they do, Thimios has made them pay, putting him in position to either pick passes up or break up completions – battling targeted receivers the whole time. And seemingly whenever C-G needs a defensive stop, it’s Thimios who makes the play.
Like against Lake Forest, which had a full arsenal of tall and athletic receivers, the Trojans’ secondary will face another steep challenge Saturday against Crete-Monee in the Class 6A state title game in Champaign. The Warriors’ offense is highlighted by Laquon Treadwell, widely considered the top high school receiver in the country, and Lance Lenoir, who made 14 catches for C-M in its 28-27 semifinal win over Lemont.
The challenge Thimios and his teammates face Saturday is the kind he has chosen to embrace, earning him the respect of his coaches and backfield mates alike.
“Marcus has had some big plays for us at key times,” C-G coach Brad Seaburg said. “He’s a very, very gifted player, and so it’s a combination of him being in the right place and then him making plays when the opportunity is there.”
Yet, as many big plays as Thimios has made this year, he has remained humble, never resting in the vast improvement he’s made.
“There’s never really any doubt that he can cover anybody on the outside,” C-G senior defensive back Zach Marszal said. “But at the same time, he doesn’t think that he’s completely better than everybody – he kind of plays with a chip on his shoulder.”
That brings us back to Thimios’ frame – which, regardless of how tall he is listed – is routinely not as big as opposing receivers. But Thimios won’t allow himself to be intimidated by big-target receivers like Treadwell, whose size and athleticism have made him a big-name recruit at 20 major programs, including Notre Dame, Michigan, Oklahoma and Florida.
As always, Thimios will do with what he has, waiting again to be overlooked because of his size.
“The great thing about football is that it’s not a weight-lifting competition – it’s not a 100-meter dash,” Thimios said. “It’s football, and it doesn’t always take [the ability to be the strongest or fastest] to win.”