Saturday, April 24, 2010


Bay-Bay ready for big day

By COLEY HARVEY @ Macon Telegraph

ATLANTA — Hugh Kight was already making plans.

As the principal of West Laurens, he was going to order the school’s outdoor dining space be opened up tonight for a county-wide barbeque.

A big screen television would be provided, as well as food to feed hundreds, if not thousands. Not to mention, massive, multi-woofer speakers were also to be brought in so that every living creature in Dexter, Montrose and the greater Dublin area would be able to hear those magical words: “And with their first pick of the 2010 NFL draft, the so-and-sos select, from Georgia Tech, receiver Demaryius Thomas.”

But then, a snag hit Kight’s plans. Thomas — or as he is more affectionately known in these parts, “Bay-Bay” — was invited to a celebration party of a much different variety on a much larger scale.

He was asked to report to New York City’s Radio City Music Hall where, along with a couple dozen other now former college hopefuls, he will celebrate his potential drafting tonight into the NFL.

“I don’t blame him,” Kight said, laughing. “That’s what I told him, I don’t blame him for going up there at all.”

Slated to be a first-round or, at worst, early second-round pick in the draft, Thomas could be one of possibly three former Georgia Tech standouts taken by a professional team in tonight’s ceremonies.

A native of Montrose — a Middle Georgia hamlet boasting less than 200 people — the seeming reality of Thomas’ small-town-boy-meets-big-city dream has already touched a community.

“It’s a big deal for our whole community,” said Kight, who knew Thomas long before Georgia Tech came calling. “To know him was to like him. Bay-Bay was who he was; he didn’t try to put on any fronts. Even the other schools, our competition, they liked him.”

In an area that boasts the likes of perennial state playoff-contending rivals Dublin, East Laurens and Thomas’ West Laurens, friends in these parts are often foes on Friday nights.

The road to New York tonight has been a rough and rocky one for Thomas. As a child, he was moved from relative to relative after his grandmother and mother were caught trafficking cocaine and sentenced to 40- and 20-year prison sentences, respectively.

In college, after the coach who had recruited him was fired, he was pressured to leave because it was rumored he wasn’t going to get the ball thrown his way much anymore, as the new head man in charge featured a spread option scheme.

Through it all, Thomas survived and emerged strong.

“It’s going to feel good to see my cousin on the podium,” said Brad Jefferson, a Yellow Jackets linebacker and distant relative to Thomas. “It’s been a long time coming for him. He’s been through a lot of situations that he’s overcome, so it’s good to see where he’s at now and how he’s grown up.”

With respect to the way Thomas blended effortlessly into his spread option offense, it will be the Yellow Jackets who get the last laugh tonight, head coach Paul Johnson said.

“It’ll take away some of the spin that everybody tries to tell guys: ‘You can’t go to the NFL in that offense,’ ” Johnson said of Thomas’ potential first-round selection. “If we have a receiver drafted in the first round, that one’s gone.”

Current Yellow Jackets receiver Stephen Hill was recruited while Thomas was deciding whether to stay or leave Georgia Tech, and he heard similar rumblings about a perceived lack of passing in Johnson’s offense. But Hill decided to go to Georgia Tech anyway, and as a freshman, he caught six passes alongside Thomas, who finished with 46 and 1,154 yards receiving as a junior.

“To see Bay-Bay make it, especially if he goes in the first round, that will make a big difference. People will be looking at the offense in a different way now,” Hill said. “Coach Johnson, he is a great guy. He will get the receivers the ball even though this is a running offense.”

Along with Thomas, defensive end Derrick Morgan is slated to be a top-10 pick, with running back Jonathan Dwyer hopeful for sneaking into the opening round, as well.

Two other players, safety Morgan Burnett and offensive lineman Cord Howard, are potential second- and third-day selections, respectively.

“That’s just motivation for the guys that’s here,” B-back Anthony Allen said. “And it’s good for recruiting and the school to have two guys — a receiver out of an option offense go in the first round and a B-back out of an option offense go in the first round. It’s definitely a morale boost for us.”

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