Johnathan Thomas will sign a piece of paper at 8 a.m. Wednesday that officially makes a lifelong dream come true.
But for the St. John’s Prep running back, the process leading up to National Signing Day was never that simple.
The signature on Thomas’s letter of intent to Penn State comes after an early commitment to Maryland, a decommitment, a commitment to Penn State, a season-ending knee injury, and a coaching change for the Nittany Lions.
So Wednesday comes as a relief.
“It feels great,” Thomas said Monday night. “My recruiting process has been a long journey. There [were] a lot of obstacles during the process. But I ended up where I wanted to be.”
Thomas committed to Maryland last May, but changed his mind when Penn State offered him a scholarship in September — a result of five scholarships being restored after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
“Honestly, I committed too early,” the Salem native said. “I knew I liked the school, but I really didn’t love it.”
Soon after Thomas was offered the Penn State scholarship, the 5-foot-11-inch, 210-pounder tore his right ACL against Everett Sept. 28. The blow came after Thomas had rushed for more than 700 yards and eight touchdowns in four games.
He had surgery in October.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” said Thomas. “I’m humbled to have this opportunity to go to my dream school. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Another hitch came Jan. 2 when Prep alum and Penn State coach Bill O’Brien announced he was leaving to become the coach of the Houston Texans.
But O’Brien’s departure didn’t rattle Thomas.
“Originally, [O’Brien] told me that he wasn’t going to leave, but he had a tremendous opportunity to be the head coach of an NFL team,” Thomas said.
“You choose a school, you don’t choose a coach. It would be nice for him to be there, but honestly, I’m happy with how everything all played out.”
James Franklin was named the new coach in Happy Valley Jan. 11, and he reached out to Thomas that day.
A few days later, Thomas met Franklin during a visit to the campus.
“I really enjoy him,” Thomas said. “I like the way that he’s a team guy, he’s a players’ coach, and he really cares about his players.”
Thomas is still rehabbing his knee, able to work out but not yet allowed to do any sprints.
“I’m progressing each day and I’ll be back 100 percent soon,” Thomas said.
. . .
Elsewhere, Natick quarterback Troy Flutie — the state’s all-time leader in career touchdown passes — will sign his letter of intent to Boston College . . . Archbishop Williams running back Kylan Philbert-Richardson will play at Penn, while Cardinal Spellman’s Rory Donovan and Central Catholic’s D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie are headed to New Hampshire. Division 4 Player of the Year Bo Berluti will do a post-grad year at Phillips Exeter. Bishop Fenwick’s Nick Bona, the Division 5 Player of the Year, is deciding between Stonehill, Merrimack, St. Anselm, and Assumption. Latin Academy quarterback Kyle Dance, the Boston City League’s all-time leader in career TD passes, will choose among Springfield, Endicott, and WNEC.
The next step
These seniors, all of whom played football, have decided where they will attend college. Not all have decided on a sport.
|Jon Baker||OL/DL||Millis||Boston College|
|AJ Barros||WR/DB||Belmont Hill||Tufts|
|Kevin Cohee Jr.||DE||Roxbury Latin||Boston College|
|Mike Cronin||OL/DL||Milton Academy||Bates|
|Ryan DeMarinis||DT/OG||Westwood||Case Western Reserve|
|Jaylin Deveau||TE/LB||Whittier||Sacred Heart|
|Rory Donovan||WR/DB||Cardinal Spellman||New Hampshire|
|D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie||RB/S||Central Catholic||New Hampshire|
|Shaun Duncombe||OL/DL||Plymouth South||Bryant|
|James Fiore||RB/LB||St. Sebastian’s||Union|
|Troy Flutie||QB||Natick||Boston College|
|Dan Fulham||TE/DE||St. Sebastian’s||Middlebury|
|Darcy Gopie||OL/DL||Milton Academy||Bates|
|Peter Graves||TE/DE||Milton Academy||Harvard|
|James Hendren||OL/DL||Dexter||Boston College|
|Jack Herlihy||T/DT||Duxbury||Sacred Heart|
|Drew Jacobs||RB/LB||Milton Academy||Middlebury|
|Joe Kearney||WR/DB||St. Sebastian’s||Harvard|
|AJ King||WR/DB||Xaverian||St. Anselm|
|Joseph LaLiberte||OL/DL||Belmont Hill||Middlebury|
|Sean Lovett||C||St. John’s Prep||Bates|
|Luke Macdonald||FB/LB||Milton Academy||Bates|
|Mike McCaffrey||WR/CB||BB&N||Holy Cross|
|Will Medina||TE/DE||Milton Academy||Curry|
|Matt Morin||WR/LB||Milton Academy||Trinity|
|Dylan Oxsen||RB||Plymouth South||Assumption|
|Jeff Perez||OL/DL||Xaverian||Westfield State|
|Kylan Philbert-Richardson||RB/DB||Archbishop Williams||Pennsylvania|
|Greg Plumb||RB/DB||Belmont Hill||Williams|
|David Smith||WR/K||St. Paul’s||Dartmouth|
|Connor Strachan||LB||St. Sebastian’s||Boston College|
|Jonathan Thomas||RB||St. John’s Prep||Penn State|
|Connor Walsh||TE/LB||BC High||Maine|