Lanier ready to join the action
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, FL

Former running back re-enlisted in Marine Corps in hopes of going to Iraq


EAST MANATEE -- When Thomas Lanier was running the football for the nascent Lakewood Ranch High football team, he always wanted to be in the thick of things.

Then-head coach Faust DeLazzer called Lanier the toughest player, pound for pound, he had ever coached.

Even though he might have weighed all of about 160 pounds his junior year, he never shied away from contact.

A 2001 graduate, Lanier started on Lakewood Ranch's first three varsity football teams. He is the school's No. 2 career rushing leader with 2,495 yards.

Now 24 years old, Lanier has never lost his intensity and competitive fire. He still wants to be where the action is and is not afraid to put himself on the line.

Lanier left McNeese State University his sophomore year, where he was a running back with a promising future.

He joined the Marines, looking to help his country and seek some adventure.

His job was in logistics and during his four years of service he was never deployed to Iraq, which he says was a big disappointment.

He spent the last 1 1/2 years in Japan because he was needed there. His intelligence dictated that assignment, but it was not one he wanted.

Last October, with his four-year service commitment winding down, Lanier re-enlisted. The promise he got was that he would be in the thick of things. He is in amphibious reconnaissance, which is comparable to the Army Special Forces or Navy Seals. It is dangerous and involves a lot of physical skills and intelligence.

Lanier could not be happier. After he gets done with all his training, he expects to deploy to Iraq or somewhere in the region around next spring. He says it is the only way he would have re-enlisted.

"If I couldn't do what I am doing now, I probably would've gotten out. I wasn't at all happy working in logistics," Lanier said from California, where he is stationed. "When I was in logistics, I requested to go to Iraq, but they wouldn't send me because my unit needed the people to do what I was doing."

DeLazzer was not surprised when Lanier initially joined the armed services or when he re-enlisted. He said doing this kind of stuff is second nature to Lanier.

"Thomas was so mentally tough. He would practice football after school and after that go to Tampa for a soccer game or practice and do his homework in the car," DeLazzer said. "He was pretty much a dedicated person and hard worker. On the football field, if you had a half dozen of him, you could beat anybody. He was undersized as a running back, and we (the offensive line) weren't very big then. But he was so tough to bring down."

Lanier has never gotten football out of his system, but his new job has given him a lot of the satisfaction he got from the game.

"I do miss football, but the difference now is that I have all the competitive things that football gave me. I guess that does the trick for me," Lanier said. "I will be in the thick of things, and it was what I want. I am not chasing the war, but it's what I want. It's not about going to Iraq, it's about me and my guys doing a job."

Considered a blue-collar type player on the football field, Lanier is that way in the Marines. He had no interest in becoming an officer and prefers to be out in the field with his men doing what might be considered the dirty work.

Lanier said he is more mature now. He is 5-foot-9 and weighs about 190 pounds, about 20 pounds less than when he was playing college football.

He has a girlfriend, Lindsey Morrisey, who played soccer at Southeast. She and his mother, Mary, and other families did not want him to re-enlist. His brother Todd, who also played football at Lakewood Ranch, is now a junior at the University of Florida.

"I am just taking four years at a time right now and not thinking beyond that," Lanier said. "I want to do this. It's exciting and challenging, and I love the guys I work with.

"My mom was pretty upset when I re-enlisted, and Lindsay would like for me not to be in the service. Most people back home feel that way."

DeLazzer said Lanier is the perfect fit for the armed forces.

"Thomas was quite the leader and pretty much everyone looked up to him. He always had that kind of discipline they (armed services) like and he is an honorable person," DeLazzer said.

Last modified: August 23. 2007 3:42AM