By Jean DePlacido
---- — Now that Bill O’Brien will be leaving Happy Valley to join the Houston Texans as their new head coach, many people who follow the Nittany Lions are wondering how it will affect the team’s most recent recruiting class ... which includes St. John’s Prep superstar running back Johnny “Guapo” Thomas.
“It’s kind of sad,” said Thomas, who was recently selected as one of the Top 26 players in Massachusetts and one of its three best running backs.
“The bottom line is at the end of the day Penn State is still Penn State. The school, the tradition there and everything about it is still the same.
A former New England Patriots assistant coach, O’Brien replaced Joe Paterno at Penn State in January 2012 before the Jerry Sandusky scandal had fully been revealed and caused NCAA sanctions to be levied against the Nittany Lions, including a four-year bowl ban and reduction of scholarships.
In two seasons at Penn State, O’Brien and his team have surpassed all expectations, going 15-9 and recently having some scholarships reinstated. The Feb. 5 National Letter of Intent day is fast approaching, but regardless of what happens with the team’s coaching situation Thomas is prepared to sign with Penn State.
The Peabody resident had verbally committed to the University of Maryland last summer, but many big-name colleges continued to recruit him. Penn State had always been his top choice, and when they continued to pursue him heavily he made the decision to accept their offer.
“I’m as committed as ever. It won’t change my mind, and I can firmly say I want to play for Penn State,” said Thomas, who ran for 762 yards in three-plus games this past season for St. John’s Prep before tearing his ACL, ending his 2013 campaign. He led the Eagles to the Division 1 Super Bowl championship as a junior.
“You’ve got to love the school, and I do. Sure, I wish I knew what was going to happen with the coaching staff, but that’s out of my control. I have no intention of changing my mind.“
Thomas has been making great progress in his rehabilitation, and said the knee is getting stronger every day.