Highlights include a game-changing game against Pittsburgh, recovering a fumble and returning from 43 yards to set up Tech’s green field goal in the 26-21 excitement. In the win at Virginia Tech, Thomas had a career-high 16 tackles and forced a fumble in the last minute that helped seal the game.
However, these moments and others almost never happened.
At Syracuse in 2020, the Jackets turned the ball over five times and lost 37-20 in what would prove to be the Orange’s only win of the season. A lowlight for Tech was a 43-yard touchdown pass to Syracuse that saw a slot receiver easily get past Thomas, who was playing as a slot corner, in one-for-one coverage.
“It kind of hurt deeply because I was always thinking so much of myself, and it kind of humbled me,” Thomas said.
Thomas had every reason to be proud. In 2018, new from Thomasville High, he was the rare freshman smart and talented enough to start six games and play in 10. His versatility has allowed him to play all over the field. In 2020 alone, he played linebacker and defensive end in addition to nickel back.
But being so outclassed by the Orange made him question himself and even his place at Tech, he said.
“I’ve been thinking about a move and things like that all the time,” Thomas said.
The transfer portal would have made exit easy and the numerous success stories of players who have benefited from a transfer (including some of Thomas’s team-mates) prove that a move is often the right move. But Thomas chose to stay. His perspective changed with the help of Thacker and then-coach Geoff Collins.
“Coach Collins and Coach ‘Thack’, they’ve been great mentors and guides,” said Thomas. “And they have led me to the person I am today. I can honestly say that I think differently, react differently to things and do a lot of things differently.”
Saturday’s game against No. 1 Georgia in Athens could well be the last game of Thomas’ career. For things to continue, Tech needs to win to upset the Bulldogs to qualify for the Bowl, or hope not all Bowl slots are filled with six-win teams, which could give the Jackets an opportunity to take a slot as 5 to occupy -7 team.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, it will be his 56th game (46th straight) and 32nd start. In the excitement back then-No. 13 North Carolina last Saturday, he passed several former Tech players for second all-time in career games, behind only teammate Malachi Carter at 57.
Thomas is eager to match up against the undefeated Bulldogs.
“These guys are No. 1 in the nation,” he said. “Do some plays against these guys, bring back the ‘dub’ and it makes everyone look good.”
After the season, Thomas will begin preparing for the draft. He accepted a seat at the East-West Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas in February.
Of course, you don’t know what would have happened if he had decided to transfer. But Thomas is grateful to have stayed.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to be at Georgia Tech,” he said. “I’m grateful for my mother, I’m grateful for my family, my grandma. my coaches, my teammates. I can’t be more grateful.”
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