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2014 Georgia Tech Football Wrap-Up: Most Outstanding Player - QB Justin Thomas

Our Most Outstanding Player may be the most obvious option for the award, making him all the more deserving.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a year makes, right?

Let me take you back to this time a year ago. In review, the team was coming off of an overtime loss to uga, a Music City Bowl loss to Ole Miss in an ugly game, a starting quarterback announcing he was transferring because he didn't like the offense, a head coach reportedly admitting he'd rather be bought out than finish out his tenure, said coach refuting that report (making a generally reputable national reporter look bad), a recruiting class that didn't wow people nationally and had many fans in a "show me" state of mind, and already having experienced early attrition from two top defensive line prospects. Oh, and that was also followed by a spring game with an embarrassingly low level of attendance (although put into context it made a lot more sense) and a coach whose fate the fan base couldn't agree on.

What a difference a year makes, right?

More to the point, what a difference a quarterback can make, right? Yes, in a year, the insertion of Justin Thomas as the quarterback in Paul Johnson's offense took the team from "mediocre team in a mediocre conference" all the way to "Orange Bowl-winning and generally dangerous team on a national level". You can thank Justin Thomas for that.

Thomas was a four-star recruit out of Alabama who won the state title in the 100-meter dash as a senior in high school. More importantly, he complemented that athleticism with buy-in on a system that the previous starter publicly denounced. Thomas committed to the system, learned its intricacies and how to execute it, and used his natural gifts to run it at a level that may have been higher than any quarterback Johnson has ever had (at Georgia Tech or otherwise). Thomas bought in to the selfless mentality needed. Though he finished the season with over 1,000 yards rushing, it was clear throughout the season that he was only going to take what the defense was willing to give him, and that he was plenty comfortable giving his teammates the ball to share the spotlight.

Speaking of which, one of Thomas's strongest abilities by season's end was his ability to avoid making mistakes. Where many developing quarterbacks would try to do too much in a high-pressure situation, Thomas was comfortable pulling the ball down and taking a loss of yards instead of turning the ball over or putting a teammate in a bad spot.

Though his numbers were outstanding by themselves, the things that don't show up in the box score were what took Thomas from "really good player" status to that of "Most Outstanding Player". His physical talents for running and throwing were outstanding, but his decision-making abilities were also incredibly refined for a player his age, and he was recognized as a leader by all of his teammates. Thomas was voted a permanent team captain by his teammates, where the redshirt sophomore joined seniors OG Shaq Mason and LB Quayshawn Nealy as one of his team's top representatives. (It was thoroughly clear from all avenues, including social media, that Thomas was both liked and respected by his teammates.)

Simply put, Justin Thomas was a difference-maker for this year's Georgia Tech team, and they wouldn't have accomplished what they did without his abilities on the field and leadership off of it. He'll unquestionably be a leader for Coach Johnson's teams moving forward, and I think his teammates join in with fans everywhere in excitement for what he can help to bring this program.

Congratulations to Justin Thomas on an outstanding first season as a starter! We look forward to seeing what else he can accomplish over the next two years!