For a long time Johnny Thomas has known he wanted to play football at Penn State.
The St. John’s Prep senior from Peabody, who is currently rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that ended his season during a game last month, had verbally committed to attend the University Maryland last May. But Penn State and the University Wisconsin continued to recruit him heavily, and Thomas told Maryland late Sunday night that he had changed his mind.
In doing so, he told Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, a former St. John’s Prep player (Class of ‘88), that he would accept his scholarship offer.
“Ever since I started watching football on TV I knew I wanted to play for Penn State,” said Thomas, the reigning Salem News Football Player of the Year who rushed for 762 yards and 7 touchdowns (plus a 107-yard interception return for a TD) in three-plus games this fall. “I am excited and blessed to have this opportunity.
“Coach O’Brien called Coach O (Prep head coach Jim O’Leary) after I rushed for 262 yards against Brockton and said ‘I’d love to get this kid.’ When I watched the Penn State-Michigan game (a 43-40 win in 4 overtimes two Saturdays ago), I thought ‘It can’t get much better than this.’ I want to be a part of it, not just for football but because it’s a great academic school.”
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Thomas said he made up his mind, but had to tell Maryland he wasn’t coming. It was very difficult, especially since they called St. John’s the Monday after Thomas was hurt against Everett High to say they would honor his scholarship.
“Decommitting is very hard to do,” said Thomas, who rushed for 1,812 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior, when St. John’s Prep won the Division 1 Super Bowl. He also runs the 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds. “At the end of the day I’m not living my life for Maryland; I had to do what is best for me.