Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 7, 2007

By Mike London
Salisbury Post
GRANITE QUARRY ó Just about everyone, new East head coach Brian Hinson included, believes running back Thomas Lowe is the next big thing in Rowan County football.
Ask Hinson if Lowe is a speed guy or a power guy, and he just grins like a cat who’s finally cornered a bothersome mouse.
“He’s both,” he said. “His favorite play is iso (a power play behind the fullback), but he also has the speed to get to the edge.”Lowe is a sophomore and playing varsity for the first time. He’s short, but he looked like a hyperactive cannonball shooting through cracks in East’s defense during Tuesday’s practice.
Lowe’s body appears to have been constructed out of bricks and cement. He packs 185 solid pounds onto his stocky frame.
“That’s all I am, like 5-foot-6,” Lowe said. “But you don’t have to stretch it any.”
A lot of his mass is in his NFL-ready calves. His sturdy, stout body and explosive speed will remind Mustang fans of former East record-breaker Cal Hayes Jr., but he’s bigger than Hayes was as a sophomore.
“Thomas is just strong, really strong,” said all-county safety Ben DeCelle, shaking his head. “Some of the most naturally strong legs I’ve ever seen.”
Lowe said he ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the start of the summer but believes he’s gotten faster since then.
He is a close friend of brilliant West back K.P. Parks, who rewrote record books last season as a freshman. If Lowe is everything people believe he will be, he’ll be compared to Parks often this fall.
“K.P. and I are buddies, call each other a lot, talk trash to each other a lot,” Lowe said. “Our dads are very close friends, and what I’m looking for is to do the same kind of things K.P. did last year. I want to be back and forth with him this year. If he can do it, I can do it.”
Lowe, a sharp kid with a quick smile, played jayvee last season, while Parks was killing people for the Falcons. A lot of opposing coaches wondered why Lowe was playing on Thursdays.
Some of Lowe’s jayvee nights were absolutely scary ó 224 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Davie County; 181 and three TDs against Mount Tabor; 253 and three TDs against West Forsyth. And those three schools were the perennial bullies in the CPC, East’s old conference.
Lowe was OK with being a jayvee. His father preferred he ease into high school football, so he eased into it by plowing a lot of jayvee linebackers.
“Dad was keying on me just getting used to things,” Lowe explained. “But I remember Coach Hinson told me after our last game, ‘Thomas, that’s gonna be your last jayvee game.’ ”
Now Lowe has officially been declared ready for primetime.
His gene pool is exceptional. His father, Greg, was a tremendous wrestler and linebacker at East before heading to Western Carolina. He was all-county for the Mustangs in 1974 and 1975 and All-WNCHSAA as a senior.
Greg Lowe used to coach at Erwin Middle School, and his son learned the game by following him to and around practice.
“Dad let me call the first play of a game one time,” Thomas said with a laugh. “Naturally, I called a running play.”
Lowe has been groomed as a running back since second grade, and the first thing any smart back learns is to praise his offensive linemen every chance he gets. Lowe’s mastered that part of his occupation.
“Those guys look real good,” he said. “All those big seniors up there blocking for me, I just love it.”
Lowe is so upbeat and positive, the veterans have taken to him, even though they realize he’s likely to garner an unusual amount of attention for a sophomore.
DeCelle’s already cheerfully greeted Lowe with a loud, “Welcome to the varsity” hit, and the O-line is already solidly in the stocky back’s corner.
“We’re not gonna let anyone touch him,” C.J. Gordy said. “All you have to do is tell him where to go, and he gets there.”
Lowe is a good student. He makes As and Bs because he has to. His father is on the faculty at Corriher-Lipe.
“Stay in the books and believe in yourself is the advice my dad’s given me,” Lowe said. “When you live with a teacher, you don’t have much choice but to work in class.”
Hinson is confident Lowe is about to go to work on the football field. Only this time, it will be on Fridays.
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or