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Fort Chiswell center commits to Tennessee to play football
Coleman Thomas had scholarship offers from West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia.
Courtesy of Tina Quesenberry
Fort Chiswell junior Coleman Thomas is rated the nation’s No. 3 center in the class of 2014 by Fox Sports NEXT.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Coleman Thomas has been a center of attention at Fort Chiswell High School.
Deciding where he wanted to play college football was not a snap decision.
The 6-foot-6, 305-pound junior had early scholarship offers from West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia. He picked up subsequent offers from Pittsburgh and Maryland.
Thomas mulled over his choices and picked none of the above.
Thomas, rated the nation’s No. 3 center in the class of 2014 by Fox Sports NEXT, committed to Tennessee last weekend, ending a recruiting battle that was just picking up steam.
The Fort Chiswell athlete picked up offers on his recent 17th birthday from Marshall and Wake Forest. Meanwhile, coaches from Auburn, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Notre Dame were on his call list.
“It was getting pretty intense,” said Thomas’ father, Richie, a former scholarship recruit at Liberty University. “The big boys were starting to call. We really feel like Auburn would have offered.
“He has really just hit a lot of people’s radar. I don’t think they know a whole lot about Max Meadows, Virginia.”
Thomas, who made first-team All-Region C at center as a freshman, is a three-sport standout.
He started as a center on Fort Chiswell’s basketball team that reached the 2012 Group A Division 2 semifinals, and he also starts on the baseball team. Thomas pitched two no-hit innings Monday in a preseason scrimmage.
Thomas, who is rated the No. 15 prospect in Virginia in the class of 2014 by The Roanoke Times, was not recruited by Tennessee until former Cincinnati coach Butch Jones replaced the fired Derek Dooley in early December. The elder Thomas said Cincinnati was recruiting his son prior to the switch.
A trip to Knoxville this weekend with his parents and sister sealed the deal for Thomas, who informed Jones personally of his commitment on the Tennessee campus.
“He told Coach Jones, ‘I want to be a part of the family,’ ” Richie Thomas said. “Coach Jones kind of sat up and said, ‘Are you committing to me?’ Coleman said, ‘Yes sir, I want to be a Vol.’
“Everybody has tears in their eyes and Butch Jones jumps up and gives me a hug. I swear there was a tear running down his face. I said, ‘I hope you’re as genuine as you seem.’ He said, ‘What you see is what you get.’ ”
Thomas grew up close to the Tennessee state line in Washington County before moving to Wythe County. Nevertheless, his older sister attends West Virginia and the family spent many Saturdays cheering on the Mountaineers in Morgantown, W.Va.
“Everybody assumed he would end up in Morgantown,” Richie Thomas said. “But we went down to Knoxville for a junior day and that’s all he talked about. When he wanted his mom and sister to come back down with him, they knew he was serious.
“I told him all along, ‘Your heart will tell you where to go. The good Lord has a plan for every one of us. Pray on where He wants you to go,’ and he did.”
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