Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 17, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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44 OCT. 17, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY MIKE SINGER Just four days after the Fighting Irish added a big-time pledge from Athens (Ga.) Academy's Deion Col- zie, the nation's No. 17 wide receiver and No. 107 overall recruit per Ri- vals, the Irish landed another four- star pass catcher from Georgia. Atlanta Pace Academy's Jayden Thomas, who is Rivals' No. 36 wide receiver and No. 195 prospect na- tionally, committed to Notre Dame over Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. He also plans to play baseball for Link Jarrett's Fighting Irish program as a middle infielder or outfielder. "My family and I sat down and had a great talk," Thomas told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "They asked me what's the place for me, and I said Notre Dame. It can do it a lot for me academically, culturally, and on the baseball and football fields." He came to his decision earlier in September but waited to announce it until Oct. 2, a special day for Thomas' family. "I've known for a while, and with my grandmother's birthday coming up, why not?" Thomas explained. "I found out where my home would be and wanted to let the world know. I wanted to do something special for her. "She means the world to me. She's always there for me. I love her to death." Thomas informed Notre Dame wide receivers coach Del Alexander of his decision to commit. His bond with Alexander was a key part of his decision. "Over quarantine, our bond really became closer, whether it was on Zoom showing me plays or watch- ing film of my favorite receiver Ju- lio Jones [of the Atlanta Falcons]," Thomas added. "He's a family guy and talked to my parents all of the time. He's really been there for me during my recruiting process. "He was really excited. He wel- comed me into the family. My par- ents were excited for me; it was a sigh of relief knowing that their son is going to play college football and have an education paid in full." Notre Dame's push in April and May put it over the top of other schools. The foun- d a t i o n o f t h e i r r e c r u i t m e n t o f Thomas was built in January when F i g h t i n g I r i s h head coach Brian Kelly visited Pace Academy. "That was his first time coming h e r e , " T h o m a s said. "We've had big-time recruits here, but for him t o c o m e d o w n here just for me was pretty cool. It shows how they feel about me." "Kelly coming w a s b i g , " P a c e A c a d e m y h e a d coach Chris Slade added. "Him mak- ing his presence known was huge. Jayden was already excited about Notre Dame, but the head guy has to show his face with the top recruits. "Kelly and I talked about Jayden and said, 'This could work.' Jayden fits in what Notre Dame stands for as an institution. We both felt very com- fortable about his fit at Notre Dame. "Pace and Notre Dame aren't for every kid. We just do things differ- ently. If you want to get a great edu- cation first and play football, then you go to a place like Pace or Notre Dame. They're very comparable. The students and athletes walk through the same door." Notre Dame kicked around the idea of going after Thomas as a de- fensive back, and while he poten- tially could end up moving to de- fense if receiver doesn't work out, the Fighting Irish staff loves his ability as a pass catcher. "He's very coachable," Slade said. "When your best player is a guy who is the most coachable, everyone else just falls in line. It makes my job much easier. He has no problem tak- ing scout team reps. "He'll do what- ever you ask him to do. He'll punt if you need him to. I'll bring him down with my de- fensive linemen on third-and-long sit- uations and rush the passer." Thomas is Notre Dame's third re- c e i v e r c o m m i t of the 2021 class, j o i n i n g C o l z i e and Pickerington (Ohio) Central's Lorenzo Styles Jr., the No. 6 wide re- ceiver and No. 41 overall player in the country per R i v a l s . T h o m a s and Colzie have known each other for years and have the same wide re- ceiver trainer — Terrence Edwards, a former standout at the University of Georgia. Thomas played in the 2017 FBU 8th-Grade All-American Bowl, and his quarterback in the game will be the same young man he'll be catch- ing passes from in South Bend. "Tyler Buchner is a great guy, first of all," Thomas stated. "I've watched his film, and it's crazy good. I had the chance to play on the same team as him in middle school. "He could even spin the ball then." ✦ COMMITMENT PROFILE JAYDEN THOMAS Four-Star Georgia Wide Receiver Finds His Perfect Fit Thomas, who is Rivals' No. 36 wide receiver and No. 195 overall prospect nationally, selected Notre Dame over Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM FILM ANALYSIS "He's a big, strong kid. He almost carries the ball like a running back. He has great body lean, which helps him break a lot of tackles. He just seems like a big, stout, thick kid. You do see him run quite a bit of routes. It's not your typical high school highlight tape where it's just a lot of deep balls, and that's encour- aging to see. "My big takeaway is how physical he is on film. My comparison for him is an ex-team- mate of mine who carved out a nice career in the NFL — Maurice Stovall." — Blue & Gold Illustrated football analyst Mike Goolsby

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