THOMSON – Class AAAA runner-up Thomson had four seniors sign letters of intent to play junior college football on Wednesday in a crowded ceremony at the school’s gym.
Running back Mike Thomas, receivers Tra Parker and J.T. Thomas, and offensive lineman Tavarius Jones filed to center court with their families and in front of classmates to officially commit to the next stepping stone in their football careers.
Three more Thomson seniors – kicker Dakota Gergen, defensive end Will Roberts and defensive back Zack Johnson – expect to sign college scholarships in the upcoming week as they pare down their options.
“It’s a stop, it’s not a destination for them,” said Thomson coach Rob Ridings. “We hope they do a great job these next two years of their lives so that they can determine where they want to go for the rest. All four of them can play at Division I, they’ve just got to get some things right and academically in line. Athletically, they’ve got it.”
Mike Thomas, the Georgia Player of the Year on the Augusta Chronicle’s all-area team, signed with Holmes Community College in Mississippi. The Holmes Bulldogs sent seven players off last year’s 7-3 team to four-year schools including Colorado and Washington State.
Thomas rushed for 2,326 yards and 24 touchdowns to help lead the Bulldogs to the Class AAAA state championship game. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound tailback finished just 43 yards shy of the school’s single-season rushing record set by Jerry Mays in 1984.
“I’m very excited to go to Holmes and play,” said Thomas, who ultimately hopes to end up at Auburn. “Coach Ridings told me that Holmes wanted me, so why not? You’ve got to go somewhere. I’ve got to work hard and stay humble.”
Parker, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver, signed with a Highland Community College in Kansas. Highland went 7-4 last season, the Scotties’ best season in 20 years.
“Coach Maurice Gray, who I was working with, told me he thought I would be a Georgia or Clemson guy,” Parker said. “So I’m going there to work on my grades so I’ll have better opportunities to go where I want to go.”
J.T. Thomas, a 6-2 receiver, signed with Garden City Community College in Kansas. The Broncbusters went 11-0 and won the junior college national championship under national coach of the year Jeff Sims. Former Thomson running back Billy Mance signed with Garden City last year.
“I talked to Billy about it and he said it would be good for me,” said Thomas, whose dream destination is Clemson. “So I’m going to go there and work and try to get better. Hopefully I’ll do good and go to a bigger college.”
All-area offensive guard Tavarius Jones signed to play with Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Ga. The 5-10, 290-pound Jones will play center for coach Bert Williams’ Bulldogs in hopes of eventually moving up to play Division II football.
“I’m very excited to be close to home and show them what I can do,” Jones said. “I want to go there and work on my game so I can play at a bigger level.”
Ridings said he believes three other seniors will sign by next Wednesday after a few more visits and a couple of late offers.
Gergen, who kicked seven field goals and more than 80 extra points, may be leaning toward Georgia Southern. Roberts, a 6-1 tight end, is likely to sign at Mercer. Johnson, Thomson’s all-area defensive captain, may end up at Reinhardt.
“I want to congratulate our senior football class for the outstanding year to go 14-1 and get us back to the Georgia Dome and play for a state championship,” Ridings said. “When you do great things, great things happen in return for you.”