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Nov. 15, 2011
By Bill Hass
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) - Of all the assets Logan Thomas possesses as a football player - a strong arm that could throw a football through a brick wall and a powerful body that could run through the same wall - there's another attribute that stands out.
"He's always in control," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said of the sophomore quarterback. "He never gets rattled."
And that's Thomas being true to his roots.
"I think it's because of the way my family raised me," he said, "just to let things you can't control roll off your back. That's just kind of the way I've taken to everything that I do."
Thomas was raised by a single mother, Kim Tarazona, who taught him some life lessons at a young age - things like how to shop and the value of hard work. When she had to work a couple of different jobs, he would sometimes stay with cousins or with his maternal grandparents.
"My grandpa taught me how to be a man," Thomas said, "and grandma is the spiritual one who makes sure that I do everything right and get stuff done in the right way. I'm thankful for the people who helped raise me because without them I could be a whole lot different."
The even-keel demeanor comes from his grandparents. Cliff Thomas endured open heart surgery and a vitamin B-12 deficiency. Shirl Thomas battled breast cancer. All those tribulations came when Logan Thomas was a teenager.
"They've gone through anything and everything," he said, "and they haven't changed one bit from it."
Thomas has taken those lessons and carried them over to the football field. He shrugs off mistakes, files away information that can help him later, and goes on to the next play.
"If it's a sack, an incompletion, a receiver running the wrong route, sometimes you can't control it," he said. "You've just got to let those kinds of things go because if you worry about them, in time they can build up and get in your head and it can go downhill for you.
"I get frustrated with myself sometimes when I haven't done a couple of things right, but it's not really anything that gets me down. It kind of pushes me to work a little bit harder."
The best example of how Thomas stays on a steady course came against Miami. The week before, Clemson had snuffed the Virginia Tech offense while applying a 23-3 licking to the Hokies on their home field.
Instead of stewing over his inability to get the offense going that day, Thomas went about his business and prepared for the Hurricanes. He delivered a masterful performance, completing 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two more scores.
He engineered the 77-yard, game-winning drive and capped it by bolting 19 yards up the middle for the TD on a fourth-and-1 play. The Hokies won 38-35 and avoided an 0-2 start in ACC play.
That was crucial because now Tech controls its own fate. If it wins its last two games - against North Carolina Thursday and Virginia on Nov. 26 - Tech will win the Coastal Division and play Clemson for the ACC Championship in Charlotte on Dec. 3.
Away from the field, Thomas describes himself as someone who likes to stay at home, watch movies, play video games and hang out with his friends.
"I bet you only 20 percent of Blacksburg has actually really seen me," he said. "I try to stay hidden as much as possible; I'm not a big party guy, Being in the public eye is not my most favorite thing in the world."
Of course, being the quarterback of one of the nation's consistently best football programs thrusts him conspicuously into the public eye on game days. In fact, the scrutiny began well before then.
Although Thomas played quarterback as a junior and senior at Brookville High School in Lynchburg, he wanted to put his 6-foot-6, 255-pound frame to use playing tight end in college. Only Duke and Boston College wanted him to play quarterback and he quickly crossed them off his list.
One recruiting service listed Thomas as the No. 1 tight end prospect in the country, and he signed with Virginia Tech with that intent. But Beamer, having seen him play as a senior, thought he could be a college quarterback.
So when Thomas reported to preseason camp in August of 2009, he was immediately asked to switch to his old position. He did, reluctantly, but began to warm up to change.
"I'm the type of person that will do anything for the team," he said. "I played quarterback my junior and senior year in high school so it was a familiar position. It worked for me and I enjoyed it pretty well. And now I love it, of course."
He spent that season as a redshirt, helping to signal in plays from the sideline. And last season he was the No. 2 quarterback behind Tyrod Taylor, the ACC's Player of the Year. This spring Beamer and his staff installed him as the starter.
In one respect, Thomas had no problem filling Taylor's shoes - his football cleats are size 16 while Taylor wore a 12½. But he was an entirely different kind of quarterback than the nimble, athletic Taylor.
"At the beginning of the season you always heard the talk, `he's not Tyrod, he's not this, he's not that.'" Thomas said. "I'm not the quarterback that Tyrod was. He's a lot better athlete-runner than I am, but I've got the height on him a little bit so I can sit in the pocket a little more and pass it.
"We're definitely different people and once I kind of realized that I'm not going to be him, it made my job a whole lot easier and I could just focus on what I was going to do. It took a little while to get that mindset and I'm happy that it has happened. Our games are completely different but the outcomes are going the same and that's all you can ask for."
Thomas was used to being a leader but he learned even more about that from two years of watching Taylor, who had the trust of all his teammates.
"They play hard for you and you play hard for them," Thomas said. "It's that mutual respect."
The only statistic he cares about, Thomas said, is the win-loss record. He has been successful on that count, leading the Hokies to a 9-1 mark and a No. 9 national ranking. And he has done it with some excellent numbers - 60.5 percent completions for 2,143 yards and 14 TD passes against seven interceptions.
His accuracy has improved as he has learned where to go with the ball as the play unfolds.
"He's a guy that's very smart," Beamer said. "He understands the game. And he does a great job as far as getting us in and out of plays and being very much in control. He knows what's going on, and he's a great leader for our football team."
When the season started, Thomas said, his tendency was to look for the first and second receivers and if neither was open he would tuck the ball and run. Now he looks for the third option and beyond, waiting until the last moment to run.
Not that he shies away from contact. He has added 355 yards and eight touchdowns running the ball and has been virtually impossible to stop on a quarterback sneak.
"I'm not going to back down from anyone," he said. "It just gives a demeanor and, to be honest, I think that's the way our offense plays as well. We like to run the ball, we like to be smash-mouth and the guys like to see it when the quarterback steps up and runs over somebody. That's kind of a joy for them."
Another joy is piling up the wins. Thomas said the Hokies want to close out strong, win their final two games to make the ACC title game and then advance to a BCS bowl.
"We always see ourselves as the ACC champs," Thomas said. "We've just got to go out there and play Virginia Tech football - strong, fast and physical - and we can win any game."
And as long as Thomas stays in control and true to his roots, the Hokies have a chance to do just that.
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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