- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
Jordan Thomas (Klein, Texas/Klein Collins) wants the best of both worlds in college football. A high-level education and a quality football program were on his checklist.
Northwestern fulfilled both of those requirements and that's why, a day after he was offered, Thomas committed to the Wildcats.
The 2014 safety made his pledge while on an unofficial visit Saturday after a campus visit.
"The deciding factors for me were that they're an up-and-coming football program," Thomas said. "They went 9-3 and are playing in a bowl game. That says a lot about their program because a few years ago they weren't like that. And for them to be the No. 1 APR [Academic Progress Rate] rate in the country, that's great. They have the best academics in the country and their football program is up-and-coming. ... Nasically I get the best education alongside with some really good Big Ten football, it doesn't get better than this."
Linebackers coach Randy Bates recruited the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Thomas for the Wildcats. Thomas, who has been a varsity starter since he was a freshman at Klein Collins, plays receiver and defensive back for the Tigers. At Northwestern, he'll be primarily a defensive back, potentially becoming a cornerback when he arrives.
When he arrived on Friday and toured the athletic facilities and the campus, he was impressed. He had an offer from Utah and heavy interest from Stanford, where he attended a camp over the summer and shined. Stanford was the only other program he looked closely into because of his desire to combine quality football with top-notch academics.
Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald offered Thomas on Friday night after a campus tour.
"We were talking and he offered me and I froze up," Thomas said. "I thought, 'Did he really just say what i think he said?' My heart's racing and I don't know what to do.'"
After talking it over with his family, he knew what to do: pledge to the Wildcats. Between the academics, the football and nearby Chicago, it seemed to be the right fit for Thomas.
"Education, first and foremost, is the most important thing and to me as a person," Thomas said. "To know that I'm getting the best education as well as playing the best football, that's huge. At any point you can get hurt. I can blow out a knee. But if I blow out a knee, I have a fallback and that's my education. That was huge for me."
549dTom Luginbill and Craig Haubert