When thinking of what makes an impact player, the first thing that comes to my mind is the ability to instantaneously promote change both on and off the field. Put more succinctly, impact players are game changers. They can shift momentum through their play-making abilities and leadership. For Georgia Tech, rising sophomore Juanyeh Thomas is exactly such a player.
Thomas was rated a three-star recruit out of Niceville, Florida where he played for Niceville High School and served as a football team captain his senior year. He holds the high school record for most consecutive games with a pick-six -- in 2015 he returned an interception for a touchdown in five consecutive games. What’s more special about Thomas is his versatility. He can play multiple positions and sports for that matter. He played basketball and ran track in high school as well.
In his freshman year at Georgia Tech, Thomas was a defensive back and also played on special teams. Many Yellow Jacket fans cannot forget his 100-yard kickoff return against UGA among his many other memorable plays. Before we get ahead of ourselves, first take a moment to look at one of his highlight films from high school to see just what kind of magic Thomas is capable of on a football field:
Thomas has great instincts and a high football IQ. He could be a ball-hawking safety or a shut-down corner. His ability to read quarterbacks and plays as they unfold means he quickly gets to where the action is. Combine this with his great ball-tracking skills and it often leads to tackles, interceptions, or broken up plays. And we’re only talking about Thomas’ impact on the defensive side of the ball.
Earlier, I mentioned the ability to shift momentum. On special teams, Thomas has done it on multiple occasions. Before his 100-yard kick return against UGA, the Yellow Jackets were down 14-0. His touchdown return changed the entire mood on the sideline for the Yellow Jackets. Similarly, against Virginia, with Tech down 7-5 after a safety, Thomas returned the ensuing free-kick for a touchdown. Tech would take a 13-7 lead after a two-point conversion. In three plays, there was a 10 point swing in Tech’s favor. Of course, I haven’t even mentioned Thomas’ pick-six against Louisville. Now let’s take a look at some of those memorable plays from Thomas’ freshman year at Tech:
It’s fairly well known by now that Tech head coach Geoff Collins likes lengthy defenders, particularly defensive backs. At 6’3”, 205-pounds, Thomas will make a perfect fit for Tech’s new defensive scheme. With Collins being particularly adept at coaching defensive backs, Thomas should have unlimited growth potential.
From his high school highlights alone, one could see why he was featured as a receiver and runner as well. It should be more than obvious by now just what a special player Thomas is. Watching him run with the ball, it’s clear he has great vision as a ball carrier. My expectation for the coming season is we’ll probably see him featured on the offensive side of the ball as well.
Juanyeh Thomas has a lot of talent. He’s a great leader, intelligent and it all translates to what he does on the field. Yellow Jacket fans should be excited about the upcoming season and what will likely feature many more memorable plays and highlights from this impact player.