On his way to Virginia in January, Johnathan Thomas decided to make a quick stopover at Maryland. The three-star running back from St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass., got a tour of the campus and met with coach Randy Edsall, who offered him a scholarship “right on the spot.”
“He showed great interest in me. I was their No. 1 running back prospect,” Thomas said Sunday. “That just made me want to really think about the place and see what they had to offer. And I got to see what they had to offer.”
Four months after this trip to College Park, Thomas decided to accept Edsall’s offer. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound junior committed to Maryland last week over offers from Arkansas, Boston College and Connecticut, among others.
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“I feel great about the decision,” Thomas said. “I have a lot of people behind me who respect my decision and are happy for me. I have a lot of support in that area, so location was big.”
A versatile tailback with 4.47 speed, power and agility, Thomas rushed for 1,794 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior. The future Terp, who also caught nine passes for 153 yards and three scores last season, became a priority recruit for Maryland and his hometown Eagles.
“A lot of people here, they’re not happy about my decision, but it’s about me,” said Thomas, who lives in nearby Peabody, Mass. “It’s not about making other people happy. It’s about my happiness.”
At Maryland, Thomas found a “diverse” and “beautiful” campus that is just a short plane ride away from his suburban Boston home. He also has family in Maryland, Virginia and Philadelphia, and one of his cousins also plans to attend Maryland.
“You have to think about location, playing time, [and] are you going to be happy at the school,” Thomas said. “My coaches and some others who helped me think about [recruiting asked me], ‘Are you going to be happy if you’re not playing football?’ Maryland is the place I can see myself being happy.”
Thomas will join a Maryland running back depth chart in 2014 that will feature three juniors in Brandon Ross, Wes Brown and Albert Reid, and one sophomore in Joe Riddle. Thomas said his recruiter, Maryland inside linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski, was “ecstatic” when he offered his pledge.
“I’m hoping to be a great contributor to the success that we’ll have there,” said Thomas, who plans to major in business. “They’re moving to the Big Ten. They want me to be a guy who’s going to take a big step forward. I can help them make a big step to the Big Ten. That’s how they need me.”