E.A. Sports Today

‘An absolute steal’

One of four Oxford signees to spark a raucous NSD ceremony, running back Thomas looks to hit the portal-world hole and speed from preferred walk-on to a scholarship at Jax State.

Oxford’s Andrew Kirkland (left), Jaydon Thomas, Camare Hampton and Donovan Jones pose for pictures after Oxford’s National Signing Day ceremony Wednesday. (Photo by Joe Medley)

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Say this about Jaydon Thomas … he’s a crowd pleaser.

As measured by the elbow-on-arm meter, Oxford’s senior running back drew the most raucous roar when he revealed his college choice Wednesday. The crowd of teammates, coaches, family, friends and others who attended Oxford’s National Signing Day ceremony erupted when he removed his hoodie and said the magic words.

“I’m going to take my talents to … ,” he said before standing up for the reveal. “Jax State University.”

Thomas revealed his red Jax State T-shirt as his mother took his hoodie then revealed her own Jax State shirt.

The storm of sound carried on, and one can only think his decision triggered a similar reaction in the Jax State coaches’ offices.

Oxford coach Sam Adams sure thinks so.

“Jaydon Thomas is a guy who’s an absolute steal for Jacksonville State,” Adams said.

Especially at the price of a preferred walkon.

Oxford’s Jaydon Thomas reveals his college choice during Wednesday’s National Signing Day ceremony at Oxford. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Thomas was one of four Yellow Jackets to participate in Oxford’s National Signing Day ceremony. Wide receiver Camare Hampton (Nicholls State), offensive lineman Andrew Kirkland (Huntingdon) and linebacker/defensive end Donovan Jones (Mount St. Joseph) all had their “with-that-being-said” moments. Reactions twitched the arms meter on all.

Oxford’s Camare Hampton puts pen to paper during Oxford’s National Signing Day celebration Wednesday. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Hampton, who became what Adams called Oxford’s “game changer” after transferring from Linocln, chose Nicholls over the late run Murray State made at him under new head coach Jody Wright.

“Mainly, I just felt wanted,” Hampton said. “They kind of showed me the offense, and I could see myself in their offense.”

Jones saw a pathway to study pre-veterinary sciences or biology at Mount St. Joseph.

“I went up there last week, and I really like what the school had to offer,” he said. “They had a good academic program where you can get internships after you graduate, and that really stuck with me.”

Kirkland liked Huntingdon’s Christian-based environment.

“My parents helped me with it a lot, because they felt like it was a really good school for me because it’s Christian-based,” he said. “It’s more than football to them.”

Oxford’s Andrew Kirkland puts pen to paper during Oxford’s National Signing Day ceremony Wednesday. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Thomas will be one of Jax State’s 18 preferred walk-ons, and he chose a good place for it. Gamecocks head coach Rich Rodriguez walked on at West Virginia and worked his way into a scholarship, so he has a soft spot.

Thomas’ road to Jax State had bumps. He missed most of his junior year with broken ankle injury, and the time not producing film didn’t help his recruitment. In college football’s transfer-portal era, the marketplace of transferring players with college experience clogs the offer spigot for high school players.

Oxford’s Donovan Jones reveals his college choice during Oxford’s National Signing Day ceremony Wednesday. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Adams called Thomas “a scholarship-level athlete, without a doubt.” Adams imagined the range of options Thomas might’ve had before extra COVID years of eligibility and the portal.

“I really think that, had he had a full allotment of film, that he could’ve had his pick of some more places,” Adams said. “Maybe he still ends up at Jacksonville State, but he’s definitely the steal of this signing class.

“Extreme toughness. He’s a kid that can be an every-down kind of back. He catches the ball well out of the backfield, protects the passer, runs the power, runs the speed. He’s really kind of the total package.”

Adams predicted that Thomas will be a scholarship player sooner than later. Thomas is glad for the chance.

“Whatever God has set for me, it came through already, because I got to go to JSU,” he said. “With all of the setbacks will just make me work harder.”

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