Georgia Tech's Thomas hopes versatility gets him NFL shot
By GEORGE HENRY
ATLANTA (AP) Justin Thomas knows his chances are slim to play quarterback in the NFL, so the former Georgia Tech standout hopes to impress pro scouts with his versatility.
He got his first big chance Friday at Georgia Tech's pro day, running drills for NFL teams at receiver, cornerback, punt returners and kick returner. Thomas also wanted to show off his skills at quarterback, so several scouts got a close-up look at his release point, arm strength and accuracy.
"I'm competing for anything," he said. "I know the game. Being a quarterback you have to know every position on the field anyway, offense and defense. Just having that experience will help out a lot."
At 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Thomas is likely too small to get a chance at QB. Another strike against him is spending his college career in a spread option offense that rarely throws the ball.
Thomas is a good athlete, though. He averaged 4.8 yards on 504 career rushing attempts and became the first Yellow Jacket to pass for 4,000 yards and run for 2,000.
Scouts clocked his 40-yard dash at 4.3 seconds Friday.
"It helps," he said. "But I still have to go out and compete."
The biggest adjustment has been learning how to field kickoffs and punts. Dropping into coverage at cornerback hasn't been too tough because of his speed and quickness, but Thomas might have too much to learn at the position with the NFL draft next month.
His best bet is likely to get signed as an undrafted free agent and hope for a chance at slot receiver. He closed his receiving drills with an impressive catch on a deep ball with his left hand.
"I didn't think I was going to catch up to it," he said. "I just put my head down and ended up finding the ball. It was a great way to end" the receiving drills.
Harrison Butker, one of four kickers and the only Yellow Jacket invited to the combine earlier this month, is Georgia Tech's highest draft hope. Butker was good at the combine on 14 of 15 field-goal attempts between 30 and 50 yards out.
Other former Jackets who worked out or interviewed Friday were center Freddie Burden, linebacker P.J. Davis, defensive linemen Emmanuel Dieke, Patrick Gamble and Francis Kallon, linebacker Tyler Marcordes and punter Ryan Rodwell.
Thomas, though, was the most intriguing. He's a fan favorite after leading the Jackets to a pair of wins at Georgia as a sophomore and a senior. He also was instrumental in Georgia Tech's Orange Bowl title three years ago.
Thomas said the Atlanta Falcons plan to return for a private workout soon. Coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were on hand Friday. Thomas added that other teams expressed interest and told him they'll be in touch.
"If I can get the ball in my hands as much as possible, that's what I do," he said. "That's how I got to this point. It's a fun process. Not many people get an opportunity to do it. I'm just going to enjoy it as much as possible."
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Updated March 17, 2017