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Running back heads home for dinner

Jugal Jain - Photo Editor
Jugal Jain - Photo Editor

While many students book flights home for Thanksgiving, Maurice Thomas plans to walk to his parents' house on Thursday.

The redshirt junior running back for Miami University has spent the last 19 years in Oxford after moving from Columbus when he was three. He lives with three teammates in an off-campus house five minutes from his childhood home.

"Now, I'm hardly there," the 22-year-old said of his family's residence on Northridge Drive. "My parents hate it."

His voice raises an octave to imitate his mom's voice: "They're like, 'We want you to come home. You live five minutes away.'"

His mom, Michelle, offers a slight rebuttal.

"I see him quite a bit," she said. "But, of course, any mom would love to have her child at home."

Regardless of Michelle's and her son's differing opinions, Maurice has an opportunity most students don't. He sees his family weekly.

Thirty-six percent of Miami's student population comes from outside Ohio. Even for non-college students, 54 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles to visit friends and relatives this week.

Those students, who live hours from home, will escape dining halls and stuff their bellies with home-cooked meals.

Maurice ate his mom's cooking last Sunday. She made his favorites: roast beef, potatoes, spinach, bread and pumpkin pie topped with a big glob of Cool Whip.

He returns home every Sunday to do his laundry and devour a good meal.

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"That's what I look forward to," Michelle said.

Maurice hangs out with the same group of friends he's had for more than a decade and serves as his teammates' Oxford expert.

"They're all like, 'Where's this at? Where's that at?" he said. "I'm like, 'It's right there.'"

He roomed with his twin brother McKenzie in McFarland Hall during his freshman year. While some might not want to live with a sibling in college, Maurice didn't mind. It felt normal for him.

"It wasn't terrible," he said. "We shared a room until we were eight or nine, so we were just like, 'Ah, we have to go back to this?'"

While McKenzie no longer plays football or lives with Maurice, the brothers remain close.

But Maurice's biggest perk of living here is his support system. Many college students phone their parents to talk after a rough day. Maurice calls to let them know he'll be home in five minutes.

His father, Randi, gives the football advice, while Michelle says she's always fixing Maurice's phone or helping him with school.

She sends him daily motivational quotes on Twitter, and following every Sunday supper, the family sits down to watch an inspirational show. Last Sunday, they watched "Shut Up and Dribble."

"Being a college athlete is hard," Michelle said.

Maurice will be back in a RedHawk uniform next fall for his redshirt senior season. Both he and his parents know his life might lead him out of Oxford when his college football career ends.

"I've thought about it," Michelle said. "It would initially make me sad, but as long as he's living his dream and doing what he wants to do, I'm so happy."

But Maurice isn't worried about that today.

It's Sunday, so he's headed home for dinner.