Penn State football fifth-year senior running back Johnathan Thomas sparked the Nittany Lions with a 94-yard return against Indiana.
Recruits have a lot of hype built around them each season. The incoming class gets talked about incessantly, and fans get excited about their futures on campus. Obviously, some of these players either are bound to transfer, not play or leave the team in some way. For every game changing prospect, there’s another that is completely forgotten. Still, there are also plenty of players that stay on the team, do all the right things, but they just don’t get the glory. Penn State football has that in fifth-year running back Johnathan Thomas.
Thomas came to the Nittany Lions in the 2014 season and redshirted his first year on campus. Since then, he’s been unfortunate in a sense. Arguably the greatest running back in Penn State’s history happened to be on campus in Saquon Barkley. He started for the next three years, then five-star recruit Miles Sanders took the running back job in 2018 to keep Thomas from getting many carries.
During that time, Thomas quietly became a contributor on special teams and received a few carries late in blowout games. He went about his business until he resurfaced to rush for 84 yards and his first career touchdown on just three carries against Kent State this year. It was a nice moment for the senior back, but his next chance at a big play came last Saturday against Indiana.
Down 21-20, Thomas was given the chance to return his second kickoff of the season. He acted like he’d been a returner his whole career, cutting a kick to the left all the way back right for what looked like a touchdown. He ended up stepping out-of-bounds with a 94-yard return down to the five-yard line. One play later, Penn State retook its lead and eventually moved toward a 33-28 win.
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) October 22, 2018
His return was just one play, but it’s a great moment for the senior running back, who helped the backfield gain a B+ grade last week. The team wouldn’t have won the game without that return. Momentum could’ve swung with Indiana and stayed there.
It’s important to acknowledge what each player brings to the table, and Thomas has done great things with his chances. Maybe he’ll get more as the season progresses, especially since PSU lost Mark Allen for the season already.