March 20, 2012

Thomas JUCO bound

In the event Airline tight end John Thomas ever plays a down for LSU that opportunity will have to wait at least another two years before coming to fruition.

Airline football coach Bo Meeks confirmed Tuesday that Thomas, a 6-foot-7, 240-pounder, will not be able to meet freshman academic entrance requirements and has signed with Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas.

"John signed with Trinity Valley with the intention of going to Baton Rouge," Meeks said. "Because of academics that was going to be the route he needed to take."

It was learned just days before the start of the Feb. 1 national signing period that Thomas, who committed to LSU in March of his junior year, was not fully qualified and would need additional time to bring both his core average and ACT score up the NCAA's requisite level of 2.5 and 17, respectively.

Meeks said that Thomas didn't reach either benchmark needed to qualify and report to LSU in August so Thomas opted for Trinity Valley, which went 8-2 during the regular season in 2011.

Even more impressive was that all 23 of head coach Brad Smiley's sophomores signed with either a Division I or 1-AA school, Meeks said.

"Their head coach coached me in college so I was familiar with him," Meeks said of Smiley, who has spent time in Louisiana as an assistant at Tulane and Northwestern State. "For him (Thomas) I felt like it would be a place he could be comfortable and having someone looking out for him, too. I think it will be a good fit for him. They do a good job of preparing their players for the next level to. It's a great opportunity for him."

Thomas, a three-star prospect, caught 30 passes for 575 yards and 7 TDs as a junior and was a key component on an Airline basketball team that reached the Top 28 Tournament in Class 5A before losing to Brother Martin in the state semifinals.

With Meeks on board for his first season at Airline, complete with a more pass-friendly offense, the Vikings lost Thomas for the season during an August scrimmage with a torn ACL and tears in both the lateral and medial meniscus.

Meeks said within the last month Thomas has returned to running and catching and also getting back into the weight room where his recovery is ongoing.

"He's looked pretty good and close to full speed," Meeks said. "He's lifting again and doing the things he needs to get back into shape and get ready to go to work.

"It was pretty tough on him because he wanted to be in Baton Rouge this summer and getting ready," Meeks said. "He also understands that's part of it and he needs to take the next step that's going to get him down there. He's very motivated to get everything done and get down there."

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