Perhaps no one in GHSA football barrels over more tacklers than Baldwin High’s lead running back Kentavious Thomas.
“I don’t know where that strength comes from, but when I’m on the field, it’s always with me,” he said. “I don’t know what people are thinking when they try to tackle me. I just run hard.”
The junior’s 8.2 yards per carry and touchdown total against strong Region 2-AAAA competition earned the Brave All-County Offensive Player of the Year.
Every time “Pop” touches the ball linebackers and poor defensive backs turn into road kill. Thomas never gives up on a down.
The perfect nickname started from his grandfather.
“It just happened on the field. When I was at the recreation department, I used to hit people hard. Everybody just started calling me Pop,” Thomas said. “Now, I’ve become big in football and break tackles and truck people like I used to do when I was little.”
The junior back doesn’t feel any one man should take him down. He spread that mentality to his classmate, Baldwin quarterback Tajhea Chambers.
“I tell Taj if one man takes you down you are less of a man. It’s always going to take two,” he said. “You fight for your Braves, and that’s what I do.”
2013 head coach Dexter Copeland said Thomas is an explosive runner that could score from anywhere on the field.
“He’s a very strong kid. He runs with power and is a determined young man,” Copeland said. “When you put the ball in his hands, you hold your breath and say what is he going to do next.”
The county’s potent offense talent invites contact.
“A lot of running backs don’t like it. Pop is one of them guys that welcomes it. He’s going to run to it,” Copeland said. “He is an old school Jim Brown-type running back. He wants to run into you and run you over.”
In his sophomore and junior seasons, Thomas has more than 2,100 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. To boot the powerful junior also shows pass catching ability, tallying six touchdowns and 834 receiving yards in the same span.
Pop Thomas said the pass catches elevated his recruiting stock.
“I have to show them in the games that I can do what a four- and five-star player can do,” he said.
Thomas flourishes during practice, weight training and game time.
“Pop will do anything you tell him to do to make himself better,” Copeland said.
These numbers and physical gifts have college football programs wanting to hop on the Thomas train. He averaged 14 touches per contest this fall but seems to be built for more.
Coaches believe Thomas can impact their programs right away.
“I knew it was going to be big, but I didn’t know it was going to blow up like it did at first,” Thomas said. “(Coaches) don’t call me Kentavious. They call me Pop like everyone else does.”
The list of interested Division I programs is lengthy spanning the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and American Athletic Conference.
Thomas has notably received attention from Arkansas, Michigan, Auburn, Nebraska, Alabama, Kentucky, East Carolina, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida, Miami, Louisville, Cincinnati, Vanderbilt and Missouri.
The running back just received an offer from Mississippi State University though he isn’t rushing to commit his junior year.
“There aren’t any frontrunners right now. I’m just waiting to see what will be my best option,” he said.
Along with Chambers, Thomas will spend the last week of December in Atlanta preparing for the RisingSeniors Bowl at Grady Stadium. Both are 2013 RisingSenior All-Stars making the East Team after positive performances at the RisingSenior camp last summer.
The showcase bowl game can make a big difference for college coaches. A kid entering with no offers can leave with many.
“It means a lot for me to be a part of this game. I hope I can help our team win,” Thomas said. “Me and Taj will go do well together. No matter what we will get a good offer. We will probably end up playing together in college.”
The quarterback-running back connection goes back to eighth grade. At the time Chambers was in Wilkinson County, while Thomas played for Oak Hill Middle School.
Chambers said the two went at it every middle school matchup.
Once Chambers transferred to Baldwin, they became best friends and shared similar dreams.
“After he came to Baldwin, we just started working together and thinking we could have D-I offers together,” he said.
Baldwin’s 2015 class brings back an abundance of skill to erase a three-win 2013 season. Thomas thinks the soon-to-be senior group can make noise in the GHSA.
The back said working on speed and vision are puts of improvement this offseason. He plans on being more vocal to get the Braves believing they can win a championship.
“I think we can get to the (Georgia) Dome this year,” the junior back said. “We have a lot of people coming back. Everybody knows this class right here can do it.”