April 18, 2019

Sanil Thomas: Big Ten Medal of Honor Finalist


Sanil Thomas was a member of the back-to-back national champion men’s volleyball teams in 2016 and 2017. He took over full-time setting duties in 2018 and led the entire country  in assists while earning All-American Honorable Mention and First Team all-conference honors. Thomas leaves Columbus ranked Top-10 in school history for career assists.

He previously earned Academic All-Big Ten honors twice and was named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar in 2018.

Ohio State Buckeyes

What was been the most rewarding experience or opportunity during your time as a Buckeye student-athlete?

It has all been so amazing that I do not think I can just pinpoint one moment. I was fortunate enough to be a part of two national championships during my time here, but even that is not enough to describe how amazing my time has been at this university. I have been on various leadership groups, professional development programs, and obviously, amazing sports teams, but what I love most about being a Buckeye is the care the athletics department shows us. They truly care about us and want us to be successful. And that success is on and off the field. They invest so much in us that you know they truly want the best things for us. That’s the best thing about being here. You’re not just an athlete or some kind of revenue stream, but a person. A person that has the support of the largest athletics department in the nation and wants you to flourish.

What makes you a good candidate for this award? Is there anyone, in particular, you would like to thank for helping you during your time at Ohio State?

If I am being honest, I was very shocked to be a finalist for the award. When I think of past winners and finalists, I do not think I really compare to those people. I do not enjoy talking about myself and would rather let others speak about me rather than me talk about myself. Personally, I do not believe it matters what I think, but what does matter are the beliefs of the people I have intereacted with. However, I believe my well-roundedness is probably my best quality. I am not really a one-dimensional person and am adaptable. I have had success in all different facets of life from athletic to academic to professional and it has all been through hard work and managing adversities.

Obviously, I would like to thank my family because of raising me the right way and for all their love and support. I could not have asked for better people in my life to look up to. Here at Ohio State though, there are two people I really want to thank and they are Kevin Burch, our assistant coach, and Andy Britton, our strength coach. These two went above and beyond the basic definition of ‘coach’ and I knew I could turn to them for issues on or off the court. They both helped me to be a better player, teammate, leader, and person in general. I go to them for advice all the time and the relationship I have with them will certainly last a lifetime.

In your opinion what does it mean to be a Buckeye student-athlete, especially at a university like Ohio State?

Being a student-athlete at Ohio State is one of the greatest achievements I have ever accomplished. It is honestly just such an awesome thing to say. The prestige and tradition that comes with the athletics program here is one of the best in the nation and saying you are a student-athlete here actually means something. Even if you do not play the most popular sports like football or basketball (like me), whenever I tell someone I play for Ohio State they know that’s special. I would define a student-athlete as someone who leverages their resources for opportunities in the future. Obviously, they used their athletic prowess to further their education, but it goes further to also using the resources and opportunities given to you to enhance your future, however that might be.

What are your post-college plans? After graduation, how do you plan to take what you have learned as a student-athlete into the business world/professional athletic endeavors?

Truthfully, my plans are up in the air at the moment. I never thought that I would have the opportunity of being a professional volleyball player, but now that that might be on the table, I am going to try my hardest to make that dream a reality. If that opportunity doesn’t come, I have plans to be in the financial advising industry and have offers from a couple investment companies. I will definitely take my work ethic that I developed here wherever I go. I realized here that every moment is a blessing and to not take any success, or anything really, for granted. Nothing is promised in this world so you have to be grateful for what you have. I have also learned that trust and respect are not given but earned. It doesn’t matter what title I have or how much money I have, I have to work to earn people’s trust and respect by putting other people’s needs in front of my own.