Walk-on in a starring role

ATLANTA - If the current trend continues, Jeremy Thomas should be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers some time in 2005.

Sound far-fetched?

Consider the previous two walk-ons who've started at fullback for Georgia. Both Verron Haynes and J.T. Wall, Jeremy Thomas' predecessors, went from walk-ons to starting fullbacks for the Bulldogs to current members of the Steelers.

Thomas, a junior from Loganville, chuckled at the scenario.

"Call my mom and tell her that," he said. "She'd love to hear I was up there. It sounds good. We'll see."

Thomas still has a long way to go, but took a step in the right direction with his finest game of the season in Georgia's 34-17 victory against Georgia Tech on Saturday.

With the Bulldogs using the screen against the charging Jackets' defense, Thomas became an effective weapon for quarterback David Greene, finishing the game with 51 yards receiving on a team-best five catches. He also ran three times for 14 yards and a touchdown.

"(Georgia coach Mark Richt) told me the fullback could end up being big for us (against Tech)," Thomas said. "I liked it so much I hope we do it some more."

If other defenses use similar schemes to those of the Jackets, Richt just might.

"I'm proud of the way Jeremy Thomas played," Richt said. "He had some good catches and outstanding blocking all day."

Richt said the passes to Thomas were less screen passes and more openings in the flat.

"We thought we could slip our fullback into the flat," Richt said. "We thought we'd have a chance to hit the fullback or the tight end. We were able to hit him four times there, five with the one he dropped. It's a fairly high percentage play. We were able to work it a few times today."

Said Thomas: "Usually, I'm in there as a blocker. But this week, there were some things (Tech) did defensively. We saw there was no one covering the fullback."

Even when there was, Thomas was still effective. Thomas scored on a 1-yard plunge with 10:46 left in the third quarter to extend Georgia's lead to 27-3.

The 5-foot-11, 238-pound Thomas transferred to Georgia from the Air Force Academy. He played for the Falcons' junior varsity squad and made the Dean's List there before deciding to transfer.

"It wasn't what I wanted to do," Thomas said of the military commitment. "I didn't have a lot of offers out of high school. ... It was cold out there, and there were not a whole lot of girls. It was kind of rough with doing the discipline and hard work. It's not like I don't want to do those things, but with the military, it has to be something you really want to do, and I really didn't want to do it."

Thomas didn't have it easy when he first came to Georgia.

"The walk-on route is pretty tough," he said. "You have to do the stuff that no one wants to do, like practice with the scout team. But thank goodness it worked out."

Thomas was able to learn from both Haynes and especially Wall, his roommate last season.

"I was a little bit closer to J.T.," Thomas said. "He taught me a lot. One of the things I picked up from him was how to be hard-nosed."

That's paid off this season.

Thomas started early in the season before being sidelined by a concussion. Since returning, he's had an impact as a blocker both in Georgia's passing scheme and leading for the Dogs' collection of tailbacks.

"He's really played great all season long," Greene said. "He's done a great job blocking. (Against Tech) we were able to fake the run, dump it over the linebacker's head and get it to him."

Thomas won't complain if the coaching staff continues to look his way. "(Richt) has always got a new wrinkle or two," he said. "Hey, I just work here. Whatever they put in, I'm going to do."

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