Prep’s Johnathan Thomas thrilled with Penn State

Johnathan Thomas is rehabbing an ACL injury.
Winslow Townson for The Globe/File
Johnathan Thomas is rehabbing an ACL injury.

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.

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“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.

PlayerPositionHigh SchoolCollege
Jon BakerOL/DLMillisBoston College
AJ BarrosWR/DBBelmont HillTufts
Drew BelcherQBReadingMaine
Steve BissaintheTBB&NMiddlebury
Pat ChampagnieWR/LBBB&NBryant
Kevin Cohee Jr.DERoxbury LatinBoston College
Mike CroninOL/DLMilton AcademyBates
Luke CuneoWRDexterFurman
Ryan DeMarinisDT/OGWestwoodCase Western Reserve
Jaylin DeveauTE/LBWhittierSacred Heart
Dan DiNicolaOL/DLDexterUMass-Amherst
Rory DonovanWR/DBCardinal SpellmanNew Hampshire
D’Andre Drummond-MayrieRB/SCentral CatholicNew Hampshire
Shaun DuncombeOL/DLPlymouth SouthBryant
Lubern FigaroWR/DBEverettWisconsin
James FioreRB/LBSt. Sebastian’sUnion
Troy FlutieQBNatickBoston College
Dan FulhamTE/DESt. Sebastian’sMiddlebury
Jack GalvinWRLowellBrown
Darcy GopieOL/DLMilton AcademyBates
Peter GravesTE/DEMilton AcademyHarvard
Tim GroganLBBB&NBates
Dillon GuthroOT/DENewburyportBryant
James HendrenOL/DLDexterBoston College
Jack HerlihyT/DTDuxburySacred Heart
Drew JacobsRB/LBMilton AcademyMiddlebury
Matt JeyeQB/DBHollistonWesleyan
Shayne KaminskiLB/RBXaverianWesleyan
Joe KearneyWR/DBSt. Sebastian’sHarvard
Liam KenneallyLB/FBReadingTrinity
AJ KingWR/DBXaverianSt. Anselm
Grant KramerOL/DLDuxburyArmy
Erik KushnerTE/DE/SSSharonColgate
Joseph LaLiberteOL/DLBelmont HillMiddlebury
Sean LovettCSt. John’s PrepBates
Luke MacdonaldFB/LBMilton AcademyBates
Mike McCaffreyWR/CBBB&NHoly Cross
Will MedinaTE/DEMilton AcademyCurry
Matt MorinWR/LBMilton AcademyTrinity
Dylan OxsenRBPlymouth SouthAssumption
Dante PapasFB/OLBBB&NAmherst
Jeff PerezOL/DLXaverianWestfield State
Kylan Philbert-RichardsonRB/DBArchbishop WilliamsPennsylvania
Greg PlumbRB/DBBelmont HillWilliams
Danny RoacheRBWestwoodColby
Mike SamkoLBBB&NBentley
Cam SmithOL/DLMedwayLafayette
David SmithWR/KSt. Paul’sDartmouth
Austin SternLBGrotonBowdoin
Connor StrachanLBSt. Sebastian’sBoston College
Jonathan ThomasRBSt. John’s PrepPenn State
Connor WalshTE/LBBC HighMaine
Tim WalshQBAttleboroBentley
Frank WilliamsRB/SBB&NBates