The 6-foot-6, 298-pounder received an offer from the coaching staff at Tennessee earlier this winter, which got him intrigued. It opened his eyes enough to make the 2 1/2-hour drive down from his Max Meadows, Va., home to see the Volunteers' first spring practice under head coach Butch Jones.
Between the two trips to Rocky Top, the three-star prospect saw all he needed to see and became the second verbal commitment of the Class of 2014, joining slot receiver Vic Wharton.
"My visit on junior day, that's aIl I could talk about was coming back and spending more time with the coaches and players," Thomas told InsideTennessee. "It was a great time today. I got to see the basketball game and the atmosphere there and the first practice, the tempo. It was a great, great day."
Big Orange Country came out in force to lead the Tennessee men's basketball team to a 64-62 come-from-behind victory over Missouri. The announced attendance at Thompson-Boling Arena was 21,767.
|Richie Thomas checks out Tennessee's first spring practice of 2013 with commitment, son Coleman (left).|
Numerous Vol greats like Jamal Lewis, Leonard Little, Johnny Majors, Terry McDaniel, Heath Shuler and Raynoch Thompson were out for the Vol workout at Haslam Field on Saturday. The tradition on The Hill and the talent that's been churned out in droves to the National Football League is something that turned the prospect's head.
"Definitely. I mean that's everybody's goal is to make is to the NFL and make it to the next level. That's what scouts come and look at is the SEC. They've had 43 first-round draft picks. It's pretty incredible," Thomas said.
Thomas is the first pledge of the calendar year for the Orange & White. Jones, offensive line coach Don Mahoney and defensive line coach Steve Stripling were elated to get the news.
"They were ecstatic," Thomas said. "I told coach Jones in his office. Coach Stripling and coach Mahoney came in. It was the reaction that I like to see."
Offensive line is a spot of great need for the Vols with the 2014 class. Tennessee could easily see all five starting offensive linemen be gone by this time next spring. However, depth chart wasn't a deciding factor for Thomas, ranked by FOX Sports NEXT as the No. 3 center in the country.
"To be honest, I didn't even thought about that," Thomas said. "I just want to come into camp, work hard, get stronger and that will all fall into place. I just want to focus on enjoying my time, getting an education and having a good experience."
It will be hard for Tennessee to sign a more well-rounded student-athlete. Thomas carries a 3.2 GPA, averaged 15.8 points and 10 rebounds for his basketball team, and hit .503 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs last season in baseball. He's already started at center for three years at Fort Chiswell (Va.) High and was all-district both there and at linebacker last fall.