Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is headed to the NFL.
Thomas, a redshirt junior from Montrose, announced his decision at a press conference on Friday.
“Something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a little boy before I came to Tech,” Thomas said.
He leaves as one of the top-10 leaders in several Tech categories: second in yards per reception (19.5), fourth in touchdown receptions (15), fourth on Tech’s career receiving yards list (2,339), and seventh in career receptions (120).
Thomas caught 46 passes for 1,154 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He led the ACC in receiving yards as well as yards per catch (25.1).
Tech coach Paul Johnson said that during his talks with Thomas as he was trying to make his decision, he told him that he had to do what was right for him. He joked he hoped he would wait one more year, but understood.
The two share a close relationship, so much so that Thomas asked his uncle, James Brown, to call Johnson and tell him the news on Wednesday because he was afraid of disappointing him. Thomas has talked about how he likes to hang out with Johnson in his office during the offseason.
It’s different than when Johnson was hired in December 2007 and people were telling Thomas that he needed to transfer.
“I think he showed a lot of courage when he came back and everybody told him you’re never going to catch a ball,” Johnson said. “He stayed. He showed a lot courage and made a lot of plays for us. He laid the foundation and proved the point. You can be an impressive wide receiver. He’s done a lot for Georgia Tech.”
Despite his tight-end size (6-3, 230 pounds), Thomas should play wide receiver in the NFL, according to NFL Network draft analyst Charles Davis. Thomas is projected to go as high as late in the second round, according to various mock drafts. His stock will be affected by how fast he runs the 40-yard dash for scouts, Davis said. They will also want to know if Thomas can beat coverage when teams are expecting pass. Davis said Tech’s run-focused offense made it easier for Thomas because every defense was so focused on stopping the run he often got man coverage and help from play-action calls.
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper listed Thomas as the fourth-best junior wide receiver on Tuesday, but he was no longer among the top-five at the position on Wednesday. Scouts, Inc. lists Thomas as the No. 50 overall prospect and the fifth-best wide receiver.
Thomas’ decision would be the first to be publicly announced by the quartet of Tech juniors who are considering leaving early.
Defensive end Derrick Morgan, B-back Jonathan Dwyer and safety Morgan Burnett have said this season that they were also considering leaving for the NFL. Thomas said he didn’t know if they had made their decisions.
According to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Morgan would be the No. 1 defensive end selected. He lists Dwyer as the No. 4 junior running back. Burnett was listed No. 2 among the junior safeties.
Scouts, Inc. lists Dwyer as No. 30 overall and the third-best running back. Burnett wasn’t listed among the safeties.
Thomas said he hopes to sign with an agent next week, and then will begin working out to prepare himself for the draft in April. He agrees with Davis’ assessment that he needs to work on his speed and route-running. He will also be taking classes the spring. He is two semesters away from graduating with a degree in management.
Johnson said that Thomas needs to work on the technical aspects of the positions, such as getting off the line in press coverage. He added that Thomas is such a hard worker that he may be able to improve his draft standing in the next three months.
Instead of being worried about potentially losing all four players, Johnson chose to focus on the positive.
“I’ve sat down with all those guys and they have to make the best decision for them,” Johnson said. “It’s a good problem to have. It means you’ve got good players. I would love to see them all come back if that’s what they chose to do. There’s a lot of money out there. Whatever they decide, I’m going to support 100 percent.”
Stephen Hill, Kevin Cone, Tyler Melton and Quentin Sims will now likely compete for the two starting wide receiver spots in the spread-option formation. Hill, a true freshman, was the second-most productive of the wide receivers with six catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. Melton caught five passes for 46 yards.
“Tech is in good hands,” Thomas said.
Thomas caught a pass in 29 consecutive games across the past three season until he was shut out in Iowa’s 24-14 win in the Orange Bowl. He was third-team All-American this season, first-team All-ACC, and a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s best wide receiver.
Thomas’ family was in attendance and shared one other piece of news: the origination of Thomas’ nickname, Bay-Bay. Thomas’ father, Bobby, is nicknamed Boo-Boo. His family tried to nickname Demaryius something similar, and it eventually turned into Bay-Bay, which is what most everyone calls Thomas now.
Thomas said the highlight of his career was winning the ACC championship. He said he would have returned had the NFL Draft Advisory Committee told him that he would be go in the third round or lower. He said he got the paperwork last week and it said he could be selected in the second round.
The Sam Bradford situation affected Thomas’ thinking some. The Oklahoma quarterback was pegged to go as high as No. 1 in this year’s draft, but he sustained a shoulder injury in the first game of the season and his draft status has dropped.
Despite his favorite team being the Dallas Cowboys, same as his dad’s, he said it doesn’t matter which team selects him. He just wants to play in the NFL.
“When I was a little boy I always told my mother I would go pro,” Thomas said.