As backup plans go, track and field has been a top-notch option for Chas Thomason.
The Dalton High senior turned to the sport two years ago when injury kept him from playing baseball and he quickly found his niche as a high jumper. As a result, when his dream of playing Division I football didn’t happen this year, he still had plenty to offer college athletic programs.
Thomason, a two-time qualifier for the Class 4A state meet, signed with Georgia Tech on Thursday. As a Yellow Jacket, he hopes to become one of the nation’s best under the direction of Tech assistant Nat Page, whose bio on the program’s website lists him as having coached “Tech student-athletes to 37 ACC titles, 39 All-America performances and four national titles.”
“I’ve always wanted to compete in athletics in college,” Thomason said. “I feel like when I have the winter off in football, I don’t know what to do with my time. I feel like God blessed me, so with the talents I was given, I want to use them to my potential and I feel like that’s going to the next level.”
Thomason, who started at receiver for the Catamounts as a senior and had 12 catches for 202 yards and a touchdown, said he received serious interest from the football staffs at Georgia Tech and Ole Miss.
Both schools made scholarship offers to other players instead of Thomason late in the recruiting process, but Page made contact about a week later and began talking to him about jumping for the Jackets.
“He said, ‘You’ve played football all your life and you’re a potential D-I football player. I know you’re obviously going to come in and be competitive,’” Thomason said.
“He saw power in my legs and potential in my jumps.”
Thomason grew up playing baseball with select teams that traveled to tournaments, but when a back injury limited his ability to pitch or hit effectively as a sophomore, he decided to join the track team to stay in shape for football. At first that only involved running sprints, but he eventually noticed what was going on off the track.
“I saw people high jumping and I thought, I can pretty much dunk a basketball, so I felt like I would be OK at that,” Thomason said. “It was a thing where I looked at it and said, ‘Maybe I can do that.’”
By the end of his sophomore season, Thomason was good enough to finish second in Region 7-4A and advance to state. He made even bigger gains as a junior — progress he partly attributes to attending a camp at Florida State — and recorded a personal-best jump of 6 feet, 8 inches that season, though an “off day” kept him from advancing past region.
Despite a hamstring injury this year, Thomason stayed focused on his high jump training, working with volunteer coach Bill Magee — a three-time letterwinner at Tech who works for Shaw Industries — and finished second in 7-4A again with a jump of 6-6 and tied for sixth at state at 6-4. He was also able to help the Cats in several other events, competing in the 100-meter dash, 200, long jump and 4x100 relay, Dalton coach Scott Thompson said.
“I’m excited for him,” Thompson said. “I think it just shows the hard work has paid off. He did some good things last summer, jumped during the summer and practiced with a couple of people. Hopefully the young athletes will see hard work pays off.”
Thomason, who said he carries a 3.61 grade point average, plans to major in biology and is interested in attending dental or pharmacy school when his undergraduate studies are complete. And he plans to put the same type of effort into classes as he does athletics while at Tech.
“I’ve never made a ‘C’ in my life, even in high school,” Thomason said. “I want to keep that going.”