Justin Thomas has found a new life for his football career.
He is now a wide receiver for the Atlanta Legends, one of the eight teams in the inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football.
Thomas was a quarterback at Georgia Tech from 2013-16, finishing his collegiate career with 4,748 passing yards for 40 touchdowns, and 2,409 rushing yards with 22 touchdowns. He helped lead the Yellow Jackets to an 11-3 record in 2014, including a 49-34 victory against Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.
Thomas’ career as a quarterback changed when he pursued the NFL. Thomas signed as an undrafted free agent with the New Orleans Saints, but was waived in 2017. He then signed with the Los Angeles Rams the same year, but was released shortly after signing. His last move in the NFL found him with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017, but he was waived by the Steelers in 2018.
“I didn’t really get too many looks coming out at quarterback,” Thomas said. “Even throughout that I knew, and even Pro Day, I was preparing for receiver, DB, quarterback, I did all of it. So I knew it going in and I just wanted to keep my options open and kept all my doors open and landed on my feet.”
With a new team came another opportunity at his new position, one he has been working toward gaining the experience to succeed in his new role. He said it’s been a learning curve for him, but his time in the NFL provided experience and reps against successful defensive backs to build his skills as a wide receiver.
The Legends’ first two games of the season provided him with a glimpse at live in-game opportunities. Thomas caught five passes for 41 yards, averaging 8.2 yards per reception through two games.
Coach Kevin Coyle said it’s a work in progress, as Thomas is still learning the nuances of playing wide receiver. His talent and daily work ethic, paired with a high football IQ, allow Coyle to see continued improvement three weeks into the season.
“Some of the things are first time through it and being in those situations and actually just learning process of playing the position,” Coyle said. “He’s working hard at it, expect him to continue to improve as we do with all the guys right now.”
The biggest transition from quarterback to wide receiver for Thomas is learning how to play without touching the ball each snap.
“It’s like starting over, so you see growth every day,” Thomas said. “You get more comfortable and you just find new ways to do different things, and it’s fun.”
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