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The journey from Pace Academy to NFL first-round draft pick only took three college seasons for Andrew Thomas.

Andrew Thomas: Why he’s more than ready for New York’s big stage

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry offers up an opinion about the newest Giant on the New York offensive line. That’s former Georgia Bulldog Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas made history last weekend while being picked No. 4 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.

These last few days have been a whirlwind.

“Just a representation of how good God is,” he told DawNation. “I was blessed enough to be drafted to a great organization with my family and friends present to celebrate with me. [It was] an experience I will never forget.”

That is just the latest impressive impression with Thomas. It will be our theme for this page.

My first impression came in late November of 2015. He was part of a behemoth Pace Academy offensive line steamrolling to a state championship.

Want to know what a future NFL Draft pick looked like back in February of 2016? Take a look at newly-minted New York Giant Andrew Thomas. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

My first wide-ranging interview with Thomas came three months later in February of 2016.

It came after the state title win and a dominating week at the Rising Seniors event.

Thomas was at track practice. His college selection process back then targeted high academics and a business finance degree.

The business finance degree is an uncommon one for All-American football players.

He shared a story of how his high school coach, Chris Slade, sat him down when he was a freshman and told him how he needed to focus on football as much as he did band.

Let’s just say we don’t hear that one a lot, too.

“I wasn’t very good at football back then,” Thomas said back in 2016.

Slade shared with him some sage advice. He saw what Thomas could be. Not many guys get to play for a coach that logged nine seasons in the NFL that Slade did.

There have probably been 150 or so more impressive Thomas impressions for me covering his career climb. But we can’t move along further without talking about the Andrew Thomas wingspan.

His arms do resemble Inspector Gadget “Go-Go-Gadget” arms. The first time anyone sees how far they elongate to his knees, they will think of the term “equator.”

Is it the length of his arms? Or his hands here? Is that why they look so very long? Is it both? That’s the Tetris it forces an observer to do in their mind.

When Thomas arrived at UGA, it was either Sam Pittman or Kirby Smart who articulated his arm length perfectly. Let’s call it the Thomas test. We can all do it. Stand up. Snake those arms down your sides.

The goal is to try to reach the ground with a flat back. Can you at least reach your knees?

You can’t do it. None of us can. And yet Andrew Thomas can scratch his knees his arms are so long.

He. Can. Scratch. His. Knees. 

When it came to his future in football, taking in those arms for the first time serves as the Ambien moment.

Nobody who gets to size up his frame, those arms and engages him in an actual conversation will ever sleep on Thomas. Ever.

Georgia football-Andrew Thomas-Florida pass rush
Andrew Thomas was a dominating SEC lineman in all 41 of his starts for UGA. No stage was too big. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

If I owned an NFL team and had to sort through a conga line of agile 330-pounders with the intent to shell out $33 million on a first contract and $120 million more with the second deal, my guy would have to be Thomas.

He offers the rare four-step NFL scouting flow chart for dummies. 1) Find a 325-pounder with those arms who played percussion in the Pace concert band and also plays piano 2) Add in 41 pristine starts of SEC tape; 4) Blend in that 28 on his Wonderlic and 4) Rest easy with a franchise pillar until 2030.

Check him out blocking three Auburn Tigers in this tweet below.

Thomas is a safer investment than oceanfront property and hand sanitizer futures these days. Let’s take a minute to wrap the arms around the current high points of the Thomas bio:

  • He’s the highest-drafted offensive lineman of all time from the UGA football program
  • Georgia has had four players drafted No. 1 overall. That’s RB Frankie Sinkwich in 1943, RB Charley Trippi in 1945, OE Harry Babcock in 1953 and Matthew Stafford in 2009. The Bulldogs saw Garrison Hearst picked No. 3 overall in 1993.
  • The NFL has been drafting Bulldogs since 1938. Those are the only Bulldogs across 82 years of NFL drafts that have gone higher than Thomas. 
  • He’s tied with NFL All-Pro A.J. Green for the distinction of being the sixth-highest draft pick in Bulldog football history. 
  • Highest drafted offensive lineman of all time from the state of Georgia (As reported by the AJC’s Todd Holcomb)
  • Thomas is now the highest pick from the state since Cam Newton in 2011. (Also reported by Holcomb)
  • It is my belief that no Bulldog will ever have a finer freshman season. Consider this: 1) 15-game stater; 2) Freshman All-American; 3) SEC Championship team; 4) Rose Bowl-winning team; 5) Played in the national championship game
  • He was a two-time All-American and the first Georgia recipient of the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 21 years.

There’s probably a few more things there to get my arms around, but not all of us have the reach Thomas does.

It seems inconceivable but the former Georgia staff did not prioritize Thomas during his junior season. When Pittman arrived at Georgia, that all changed.

He was there bright and early on the first day of every permissible recruiting contact day that he could go see Thomas and future 5-star Jamaree Salyer.

That’s mind-numbing information for recruiting folks. It would be like Georgia waiting to recruit 5-star Amarius Mims or 4-star Micah Morris until December of their junior year. But that’s what happened here with the future No. 4 overall pick.

Thomas “only” wound up rated as the nation’s No. 9 OT and No. 45 overall prospect for his class. But that has a backstory. He suffered a shoulder injury in an Opening regional and wasn’t able to finish the camp.

He tried to go a rep or two past that injury and only looked very good on those reps. Not otherworldly.

That injury still limited him in July at the national Opening finals at Nike headquarters in Oregon. It was why he only looked like one of the nation’s top 15 tackles at the time.

He never sought to publicize that injury. To him, that was just making an excuse.

Georgia football-UGA-Andrew Thomas
Check out the arm length on Andrew Thomas. It brings to mind the term “equator” when one gets a real good look at it. (Associated Press)

When it came time to compete at the Army All-American Bowl in January of 2017, the strength and motion in that joint had returned. He was a monster that week in San Antonio. Thomas then went on to train at an even higher level with his Pace offensive line coach Kevin Johnson after that week.

He would box and refine every aspect of his game. Those were his “Rocky Balboa” training days. When he reported to Georgia in June of 2017, he was a likely starter after just the first week of fall practices.

When Georgia cut the ribbon on its West End Zone expansion project after that 2017 season, Smart chose a member of the team who exemplified the best of what the program aims to recruit. The young man who checked both the student and the future NFL draft pick boxes.

His choice was Thomas.

He’s the product of some very strong family roots. His parents, Andre and Belinda Thomas are ripped straight out of Hollywood casting as ideal role models.

Thomas is also very close to his younger sister. She is a senior in the Class of 2020. Brianna Thomas can sing like a soulful angel. Those two are confidantes. The future Mrs. Thomas will have to pass a stout “Sister Wonderlic” to get his sister’s blessing.

How many NFL draft pick-younger sibling relationships are grounded like this one? That number will probably mirror the number of players who have arms that long.

Prior to the draft, there were rumblings Thomas might wind up as the No. 4 tackle in the draft.

According to data published at onspotrac.com, the difference between being the first and fourth tackles picked is vast. Thomas is expected to garner a four-year deal worth approximately $33.2 million.

The fourth tackle, Tristan Wirfs, went No. 13 overall to Tampa Bay. His payday is only slotted to be four years for $16.6 million. Thomas earned an extra $17 million in going from the No. 4 tackle to the No. 1 tackle in the draft.

That’s a business and banking finance lesson for all of us.

It happened to a young man who has always had “@AllforGod55” as his Twitter handle. But then he goes about living his life that way, too. Thomas grew up in the church.

Andrew Thomas-Georgia football-UGA football
Andrew Thomas started giving back in his local community last November. It was a strong sign that he was ready to take a long look at the 2020 NFL Draft. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

He chose this past November to give away turkeys in his hometown. It was his first step in starting up a future foundation in his native Lithonia. We can expect to see a “Drew came through” event like that in Lithonia every Thanksgiving.

Thomas connected that day with a former NFL player from generations ago. That gentleman is a very successful local business owner.

When those two got the chance to speak, it seemed like Thomas wanted to soak up every word from someone who had already walked down the path his life was heading. He told Thomas to pay attention to where his money goes and the Terry College of Business major listened in real close.

He is now represented by Roc Nation Sports. That has meant video conference calls with rap icon and billionaire Jay-Z. That’s the sports agency founded by a man who grew up in Brooklyn, too.

“It’s a blessing to be able to learn from one of the most successful black men in the world,” Thomas said. “They want me to be much more than a football player and really maximize my platform and brand.”

The new Giant in Manhattan already has that all over his resume. He could make it anywhere. Even in American’s media capital.

Let’s hear it for Big ‘Drew. There’s nothing he can’t do blocking dudes on a field. Even now that he’s in New York.

Did you know the weekly DawgNation.com “Before the Hedges” program is now available as an Apple podcast? Click to check it out and download.

DAWGNATION RECRUITING

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