Everything has been happening so fast for Jonathan Thoma of Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas High School since he recently agreed to be a “preferred walk on” at Ohio State, but he couldn’t be any happier for the situation that he's ended up in.
“I’ve just been taking everything in stride and just letting things happen,” Thoma said. “And it’s been great.”
Prior to this past football season, Thoma would have been thrilled with the opportunity to go Ohio State on scholarship, but the sport he thought that could have gotten him there was actually soccer.
“I’ve always just loved all sports,” said Thoma who actually was a quarterback on his 7th and 8th grade football team. “I chose soccer for high school and I did well in that. I made the all-district team and I was the Stark County player of the year this year. I’ve been a starter here since my sophomore year.”
Thoma will actually play and likely letter in five different sports at St. Thomas in his senior year. In addition to football and soccer, he was on the swim team for the first time and we was the top scorer on the team, and he’ll play baseball in the spring and be a member of the school’s track as well.
“I was actually making visits as a soccer player and a lot of schools were interested in me for baseball, so I was in between soccer and baseball,” said Thoma who plays the outfield and is hitting over .400 for his career on the diamond for his school. “Ohio State is still sending me letters for baseball so I don’t think they know about the football situation. So I was already looking at Ohio State.”
But it was his soccer prowess that actually gave him the opportunity to become the punter on the school’s football team. Aquinas head coach Tim Tyrrell, who played tight end for Jim Tressel at Youngstown State University, knows the importance of the punting game first hand and solicited the aid of Thoma in that department for this past season.
“Our coach needed a punter this year and he asked me to come out, and it worked out pretty well,” Thoma said. “They were always trying to get me to come out, mainly as a receiver because of my height, but last season we had kind of a shaky punter and (Tyrrell) came up and invited me out.”
And knowing what he knows now, Thoma has no regrets for how everything has turned out.
“I’m sure that if I would come out for football earlier, I’ve been told that I would have had a lot of scholarships on the table but I’m just thankful for the situation I’m in and I’m glad that everything has happened this way,” he said. “My main obligation was to soccer this year. I had football practice right after school and then I would run over to soccer at 4:30 so I basically just stuck to kicking this year even though it would have been fun to play other positions.”
A wise man has said on more than one occasion that the punt is the most important play in football and Terrell has obviously learned well from the wise one.
“I think it’s the same way at Ohio State but at St. Thomas the first thing we would work on everyday is the punt for about 20 minutes at the beginning of practice and then we would go off and do offense and defense,” Thoma said. “So it was very important in our system.”
And because of that, Thoma should fit into Ohio State’s system very well. And the sooner he’s able to win the starting job the better as far as he is thinking. Thoma knows there is a potential opening at the punting spot and he plans on putting his best leg forward.
“I’ve never seen the others down there kick so it’s not really fair for me to say anything along those lines but I’m going to work as hard as I can this summer, I know I have the ability and I’m going to put myself in the best position that I can to compete for the job this fall,” he said. “I would love to earn that job because it’s no fun standing on the sidelines even if it is at Ohio State. I’d rather be a part of the game. So it’s definitely something that I’m going to work for. (Becoming the starter) is the big goal that I’m going to shoot for.”
Earning a scholarship is actually the secondary goal but in a way it’s the motivation behind the motivation for Thoma.
“The scholarship is important to me because we don’t have the most money in the world but I just want to be successful in the classroom and on the field and do my very best in both,” he said. “I’m actually honored to be preferred walk on. Ohio State has their pick of whoever they want basically and to be one of the 105 people to get this chance is great for me.
“It’s just amazing to see all the support that I’m getting and I’m just pumped to get down there and do my best for everyone here and for myself and for my family.”
It’s better late than never for Thoma. Signing day came and went and Ohio State didn’t offer him a scholarship but they really let him know how important he was to them.
“Ohio State and Louisville both basically contacted me three weeks before signing day,” Thoma said. “Ohio State’s been there all along but they hadn’t shown heavy interest until about three weeks before signing day. And Kent State offered me two days before signing day. I was actually home sick on signing day and I was on the computer seeing who went where and I wasn’t too worried about not being able to sign a scholarship, I was just thankful for the opportunity I had.”
And now the 6-2, 190-pound Thoma will continue to hone his punting skills in addition to playing baseball and competing in the long jump in track in the spring.
“I’ve always had a lot going on that it almost burdens me not to have something going on,” he said. “When I have things going on it gives me a schedule to follow and I’m still going to have plenty of time to practice punting and things like that. I’m just trying to have as much fun as I can in high school.”
A strong work ethic is just a natural part of his upbringing. Thoma’s mother is from Malaysia, his father is Caucasian and he was born in a country called Brunei, one of the richest countries in the world. In addition to his athletic exploits at Aquinas, Thoma carries a 3.6 GPA in the classroom.
“My dad was working with the United State’s Sports Academy and he went over to Malaysia to coach the state track team from where my mom was from,” Thoma explained. “He went to a party one night and it was my mom’s birthday party and that’s how they met. They fell in love and six months later they were married. If he didn’t go that party that night I wouldn’t be here.”
And becoming a Buckeye is just another great thing that has happened in his life.
“I’ve experienced more than most kids will ever experience,” said Thoma who’s father is professor at Mount Union College. “We do all kinds of traveling with my dad’s conferences and going back to mom’s house in Malaysia, so I’ve been everywhere. And this is just a new chapter in an interesting life I guess.”
And he intends to make the most of his opportunity at Ohio State. Tressel couldn’t have made a more favorable impression than he did on Thoma and his family.
“My parents met him and they were impressed with how he was so honest with us,” Thoma said. “He told us exactly what the situation was and it was great. He laid it all out and said, ‘just do your best and we’ll see where you fit in.’ So I feel very fortunate. Everything has seemed to have gone right so far and hopefully it will continue on that way.”
With his place at Ohio State now secure, he can’t wait until he’s actually on the field and booming kicks in the stadium some day.
“It’s going to be unbelievable,” Thoma said. “When we walked out of the tunnel on my visit and I just looked up and I could envision how it would be. And it’s just going to be unbelievable.”