'Like a big ol' family'

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Joshua Thomas' first-ever recruiting visit made an impression that's sure to last.

Thomas, a 6-foot, 200-pound Class of 2015 football prospect from Buford (Ga.) High School, made Tennessee the initial stop of what promises to be a competitive and memorable recruiting process when he visited Knoxville on Saturday. He didn't participate in camp drills but he was all smiles as he discussed the people, facilities and camaraderie he observed during his stay.

"Everybody knows each other," he said. "Everybody walked by and said ‘Hey.' Nobody just walked by. They all knew each other, so it's like a big ol' family."

Because Thomas plays running back and outside linebacker back in Buford, he spent time with both Vol running backs coach Robert Gillespie and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen during his visit. They were the main reasons Big Orange Country was his initial recruiting destination.

"Coach G and Coach Thigpen – just knowing they're working with me and have always been talking to me," Thomas said when asked why UT was Stop 1. "They made me feel nice and comfortable, so I'm happy to come here for my first visit."

Asked what impressed him about Tennessee, Thomas virtually gushed.

"The indoor facilities, the weight room, how they take care of the student-athletes, how they have tutors over there by the academic center," he said, pausing to catch his breath before continuing: "They know the student-athletes have such a busy schedule, so they have doctors who can take care of them, so they don't have to wait in line. It's a great place."

When asked if his first recruiting visit set the bar for the visits to follow, he smiled and replied: "Yes, sir. It really did."

Thomas spent the latter portion of his visit with Gillespie, whose charisma clearly made a positive impression.

"Oh, he's a great man, real sincere," the prospect said. "I was happy that he was able to take time from his day just to come see me and show me around the school. It felt like a good family. It felt like I was at home. It was nice."

The fact head coach Butch Jones gave many of the campers individual attention must have been nice, too. Asked to pinpoint the highlight of his visit, Thomas replied: "Probably meeting Coach Butch Jones. He's a big-time coach. Knowing how he wants to meet every kid, I was just happy that he was able to take time to come and meet me, knowing he has a busy schedule and all."

Thomas called Tennessee assistant coach Robert Gillespie (pictured) both 'great' and 'sincere.'
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
Playing in a four-man running back rotation as a high school sophomore last fall, Thomas rushed for more than 400 yards and seven touchdowns on just 72 carries. Even in that limited role, he attracted scholarship offers from Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi State, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati.

Packing 200 pounds on a muscular frame, Thomas considers himself a power runner, even though he says he clocked a "4.49, 4.5" the last time he ran the 40-yard dash.

"Buford runs a pro-style offense, and I would describe myself as a power back," he said. "First-and-10, third-and-two, fourth-and-one … just getting that extra yard, powering the defense away."

Thomas said Tennessee's coaches like his size, his competitive nature and his heart.

"I might not be the biggest statue," he said, "but I have the biggest heart out there … just giving it all."

Thomas said he caught a lot of passes out of the backfield last fall and that his coaches occasionally used him as a slot receiver, "running quicks, running post routes, running Chinas. I'm versatile."

Although winning is important, Thomas says he's looking for coaches who stress academics, as well.

"It's not only how they treat me as an athlete but how they treat me as a student," he said. "If I don't make it to the next level, don't make it to the NFL, I can still get my diploma. I can say I attended the University of Tennessee and get me a nice job and take care of my family."

Asked if any of his early offers stand out at present, Thomas smiled.

"Mostly Tennessee."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories

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","mobileBody":"Joshua Thomas' first-ever recruiting visit made an impression that's sure to last.

Thomas, a 6-foot, 200-pound Class of 2015 football prospect from Buford (Ga.) High School, made Tennessee the initial stop of what promises to be a competitive and memorable recruiting process when he visited Knoxville on Saturday. He didn't participate in camp drills but he was all smiles as he discussed the people, facilities and camaraderie he observed during his stay.

\"Everybody knows each other,\" he said. \"Everybody walked by and said ‘Hey.' Nobody just walked by. They all knew each other, so it's like a big ol' family.\"

Because Thomas plays running back and outside linebacker back in Buford, he spent time with both Vol running backs coach Robert Gillespie and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen during his visit. They were the main reasons Big Orange Country was his initial recruiting destination.

\"Coach G and Coach Thigpen – just knowing they're working with me and have always been talking to me,\" Thomas said when asked why UT was Stop 1. \"They made me feel nice and comfortable, so I'm happy to come here for my first visit.\"

Asked what impressed him about Tennessee, Thomas virtually gushed.

\"The indoor facilities, the weight room, how they take care of the student-athletes, how they have tutors over there by the academic center,\" he said, pausing to catch his breath before continuing: \"They know the student-athletes have such a busy schedule, so they have doctors who can take care of them, so they don't have to wait in line. It's a great place.\"

When asked if his first recruiting visit set the bar for the visits to follow, he smiled and replied: \"Yes, sir. It really did.\"

Thomas spent the latter portion of his visit with Gillespie, whose charisma clearly made a positive impression.

\"Oh, he's a great man, real sincere,\" the prospect said. \"I was happy that he was able to take time from his day just to come see me and show me around the school. It felt like a good family. It felt like I was at home. It was nice.\"

The fact head coach Butch Jones gave many of the campers individual attention must have been nice, too. Asked to pinpoint the highlight of his visit, Thomas replied: \"Probably meeting Coach Butch Jones. He's a big-time coach. Knowing how he wants to meet every kid, I was just happy that he was able to take time to come and meet me, knowing he has a busy schedule and all.\"

Playing in a four-man running back rotation as a high school sophomore last fall, Thomas rushed for more than 400 yards and seven touchdowns on just 72 carries. Even in that limited role, he attracted scholarship offers from Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi State, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati.

Packing 200 pounds on a muscular frame, Thomas considers himself a power runner, even though he says he clocked a \"4.49, 4.5\" the last time he ran the 40-yard dash.

\"Buford runs a pro-style offense, and I would describe myself as a power back,\" he said. \"First-and-10, third-and-two, fourth-and-one … just getting that extra yard, powering the defense away.\"

Thomas said Tennessee's coaches like his size, his competitive nature and his heart.

\"I might not be the biggest statue,\" he said, \"but I have the biggest heart out there … just giving it all.\"

Thomas said he caught a lot of passes out of the backfield last fall and that his coaches occasionally used him as a slot receiver, \"running quicks, running post routes, running Chinas. I'm versatile.\"

Although winning is important, Thomas says he's looking for coaches who stress academics, as well.

\"It's not only how they treat me as an athlete but how they treat me as a student,\" he said. \"If I don't make it to the next level, don't make it to the NFL, I can still get my diploma. I can say I attended the University of Tennessee and get me a nice job and take care of my family.\"

Asked if any of his early offers stand out at present, Thomas smiled.

\"Mostly Tennessee.\"

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