Georgia State’s Thomas ready to trade football for medicine

In a few years, Terry Thomas will be able to remove a stethoscope from his ears, adjust his lab coat and tell a patient to take a couple of pills every day. And they’ll do exactly what he says. That’s the sort of gravitas a health care professional carries when he’s 6-foot-3 and weighs 275 pounds.

But before heading off into the world of medicine, Thomas, a senior defensive lineman, will play his final football game for Georgia State on Tuesday against Wyoming in the Arizona Bowl (4:30 p.m., CBSSN). Then Thomas can be totally focused on finishing his degree in biology, one of the most challenging areas of study at Georgia State.

“You can’t take any days off with that,” Thomas said. “Finding the balance is a matter of organizing and prioritizing everything. Practice is going to be there, class is going to be there so, so when I get done with those two obligations, I’m using the smartphone wisely and staying disciplined. I stay on top of my grades and make sure I can set myself up for a better future.”

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Thomas was recently named to the Academic All-District team for the second straight year. He’s still unhappy about receiving an A-minus that prevented him from making the 4.0 average he needed to make the President’s List last semester.

His grades are pretty good on the football field, too. Thomas will leave the program as part of the school’s winningest class and will be playing in a bowl game for the second time in three seasons. He has been in the lineup since arriving as a true freshman from Luella High School in McDonough and has been the starter the last three seasons. During that time, Thomas has seen the program grow in stature.

“My sophomore year, getting the first bowl win in school history, first winning season as well,” Thomas said. “Being a part of it. … I think I had a hand in shaping that and helping get us to that point.”

Thomas was also part of the senior leadership that helped the program bounce back from a 2-9 season in 2018 to go 7-5 and set a school record for most regular-season wins.

“We really attacked the workouts, summer camp, fall camp … you could tell it was night and day from last year,” Thomas said. “Everybody was hungry to be better. Everybody was competitive and got after one another like never before. We put it all together in that Tennessee game. That’s when we knew we had something special.”

This season Thomas been a consistent force on a defense that has had to deal with a series of injuries. In 12 games, Thomas has 29 tackles, 4.5 for loss and two sacks. He had two hurries, two pass breakups and recovered the first fumble of his career.

Thomas and the Georgia State defense will be tested by a Wyoming offense that averages 208.5 yards rushing per game. The Cowboys are led by sophomore back Xazavian Valladay, who has rushed for 1,061 yards.

Georgia State quarterback Dan Ellington will continue to play with the knee injury he suffered against Louisiana-Monroe earlier this season. Ellington (2,291 yards passing, 21 TDs) and running back Trae Barnett (1,389 yards rushing, 12 TDs) will be going against a Wyoming defense led by safety Alijah Halliburton, who ranked No. 11 in the nation for total tackles, and linebacker Logan Wilson, who was a finalist for the Butkus Award.

“Wyoming has some big guys who are very physical,” Thomas said. “We’ll have to match that intensity. We’re going to have to bring our best to make sure we’re able to stop the run because that’s basically what they want to do, literally run the ball down the middle of the field.”