Franklin wide receiver Ian Thomas had a few reservations about his intention to sign with Rutgers after the Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano announced his departure late last week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After a lot of thought, however, Thomas decided Rutgers was still the place for him.
“I can’t stand here and tell anyone that I will be playing in the NFL,” Thomas said during his Wednesday morning signing ceremony, “but I can guarantee I will have a degree from Rutgers in the next four years.”
In the Franklin gym before a crowd of family, teammates and friends, Thomas signed his national letter of intent to accept a full football scholarship from the New Jersey university on the opening day of the football signing period. The two-time All-Metro selection chose the Scarlet Knights over offers from 21 other schools including Iowa and Virginia.
A speedy 6-foot, 190-pound receiver who scored 31 touchdowns in his career and helped Franklin reach the state Class 3A title game in 2010, Thomas said interim coach Kyle Flood told him that the Scarlet Knights would still run the pro-style offense that Schiano had run. That reassured Thomas that, if he breaks into the lineup, he would get the ball.
“The coaching change was big for me because I’ve know coach Schiano through this whole process, but now coach Schiano has left and it’s a little uncertainly there, but it’s still all about the players in that program,” Thomas said. “I knew I wasn’t picking Rutgers for the coaches. It was more for the program. I liked the people in the program, the players in the program, I have great relationships with them all. I feel like it’s a great fit for me.”
Thomas caught 38 passes last season for 1,010 yards and seven touchdowns. He gained 1,501 all-purpose yards and scored a total of 11 touchdowns. Over two years, he caught 121 passes for more than 2,200 yards. He also doubled as a safety and had four interceptions last fall.
Franklin coach Anthony Burgos made sure Thomas thought everything through after the coaching change, but both agreed no one should pick a college football program based solely on the coach, because a coach could leave at any time.
“We have had an opportunity to go to Rutgers over the last year and half,” Burgos said, “and it was a place I was pushing for early. My opinion didn’t sway. I just thought me being his coach I had to present different ideas to him with the coaching change. Coach Schiano did a tremendous job of really selling the school and he always said to us it’s not about the coaching, it’s about the school, about the opportunities that Rutgers has in place. I just think it was a great decision for him to make.”
Thomas said he would likely major in health or physiology.
“I want to make it to the NFL, but I I don't make it, I think I would enjoy being a trainer or a nutritionist,” he said.
Two of Thomas's teammates also made their commitments official at the ceremony. Lineman Cyril Nuworsoo signed with the University of Charleston in West Virginia. Defensive end Andrew Bond, who plans to become a pilot, will play for Division III Averett University in Danville, Va.
For more photos from Ian Thomas' Signing Day event, click here.