Georgia Tech safety Juanyeh Thomas addresses the media following the team's practice October 8, 2018. (Ken Sugiura/AJC)

Juanyeh Thomas on his interception and ‘dudes flying’

In only the sixth game of his career, Georgia Tech freshman safety Juanyeh Thomas made a little bit of history against Louisville. Late in the fourth quarter of the rout over Louisville, Thomas dropped back in coverage and intercepted Cardinals quarterback Jordan Travis’ pass and dashed 95 yards down the sideline for Tech’s final touchdown of the game.

It went into the record books as tied for the fifth longest interception return in Tech history. On the play, Thomas was lined up at the linebacker level on the first-and-10 play from the Tech 11. After one step to the line of scrimmage, Thomas dropped into the flat underneath receiver Devante Peete as Travis eyed him for a sideline route. Thomas was in place to make the interception when Travis threw his way.

The rest was easy, a straight shot down the sideline.

“Honestly, when I picked it off, I saw (cornerback Ajani Kerr) block the dude there (Peete) and then I just saw the quarterback and he was chasing me and then he gave up, so I was like, OK – touchdown,” Thomas said.

The lopsided margin gave Thomas more playing time at free safety, where starter Malik Rivera has been difficult to sub out because of his knowledge of the scheme.

“First, it was much different than high school, period,” Thomas said. “The game is faster.”

Thomas, though, is OK waiting behind Rivera, a grad transfer from Wofford who played in a similar scheme there.

“The dude is smart,” Thomas said. “Malik is probably the smartest person I’ve ever met. Me, personally, I don’t mind being his backup because I learn something new from him every day.”

For Thomas, the interception return for a score – Tech’s second of the season, the most since the Jackets had five in 2014 – didn’t quite make up for a kickoff return for a touchdown against Bowling Green that was called back on a penalty.

Thomas very much wants to score on a kickoff return. He said the holes are there.

“It’s just me personally, I have to make the right read to hit the hole and score,” Thomas said.

Thomas is averaging 19.77 yards per return, 11th in the ACC. He said that it is a learning process.

“It is, because as a freshman, I’ve just got to get used to the college level of that, because, you know, high school, it’s kind of easier,” he said. “But now it’s dudes flying, so you’ve just got to hit it.”

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