By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
The first time Logan Thomas met Tajh Boyd, he knew right away what the situation was.
“You could tell he was a quarterback,” Thomas remembers. “He demands that kind of attention right off the bat.”
That first encounter came when the two were sophomores in high school and they both attended a Nike Football Camp in Chapel Hill, N.C. Not surprisingly, Boyd was the quarterback and Thomas, who will be quarterbacking Virginia Tech when the Hokies come to Death Valley Saturday to play 13th-ranked Clemson, was a wide receiver.
“I remember Tajh was very accurate and was very efficient,” Thomas sad.
The reason Thomas was not a quarterback at the time was the fact he did not believe he was one. He felt he was more of an athlete that used his great athletic ability to make plays. That’s why he was playing wide receiver in most of the camps he went to and was recruited as a tight end when Virginia Tech signed him in 2009 out of Lynchburg, Va.
“I never really pictured myself as a quarterback,” Thomas said. “I was more of an athlete that would have the ball in my hands to make plays.”
While Thomas was catching the eyes of recruiters by making one play after another in so many different ways, Boyd was doing the same thing, but was mostly using his arm. At Phoebus High School in Hampton, Va., Boyd was leading his team to a 43-2 record and two state championships, while completing 69.2 percent of his passes.
“For me, being the competitor that I am, I feel I’m the best quarterback there is, and I want to be the best quarterback,” Boyd said. “That’s the way I approach everything. I mean we have goals here as a team and those are more important, but there are certain situations that weigh into my mind because I love playing quarterback. I love to compete. I want to be the best.”
But what caught scouts eyes more than anything during Boyd’s senior year of high school was the way he handled himself after tearing his ACL early in the season. Though injured and in obvious pain at times, he chose to still play, leading his team to a second straight state championship.
Before having surgery, he went on to win MVP honors in the Army All-American Game after completing 7 of 9 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns. One of the guys on his team was Thomas, who caught a touchdown pass, but it was not from Boyd.
However, during that week of practice and in the game, Thomas was impressed with the way Boyd demanded and got his teammates’ attention the way he did.
“He definitely demands the attention and has the demand and characteristics it takes to be a leader,” Thomas said. “He is that type of person. It’s just how most quarterbacks are. Tajh is very calm and collected, but when it is time to turn it on, he is ready to do it. There is no worry in his game.”
Thomas saw that first hand last year as Boyd and the Tigers knocked off Virginia Tech twice, including a 38-10 victory in the ACC Championship game. Boyd, who says he loves playing in games like Saturday’s contest, threw three touchdown passes and ran for another in earning MVP honors in the championship game.
“When I get into a matchup with any of these teams, and I don’t care who it is, I want to be the best quarterback on the field that day,” he said. “I feel like if everybody wins their position, you will win that game. You do not want to get out played and I do not want to put myself in position to be outplayed.”
Since both received the starting nod as their school’s quarterback, the two have been unfairly compared to by the media, especially on the national level. Boyd, who has broken just about every Clemson passing record there is, and he still has a year-and-half to go, is called a system quarterback by some and is a product of Chad Morris’ high-tempo offense.
Thomas, though he is having a down year, gets all the praise from the talking heads like ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper.
“I’m perfect for this offense and I feel like I was built for this,” said Boyd, who has already thrown for 1,748 yards and leads the ACC in total offense and passing this season. “He is good at what he does in their offense and I’m good at we need me to do in this offense. We both have to keep improving, but we run our offenses, I think, the way we are supposed to.
“He is a big guy, though. He is 6-6 or whatever, and I’m 6-1. I can’t grow no more. That’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. But, I feel like I have developed myself to be the best quarterback I can be at the moment. There is definitely room for improvement and there is a lot of room to grow and I’m not going to stop there. I just have to keep working and see how things turn out.”
Saturday will be another test for both and another opportunity for the two Virginia natives to show off their skills to the rest of the world. Boyd also looks at it as another opportunity to prove he is the best quarterback from Virginia in the ACC.
In all, the ACC has six of its starting quarterbacks—Boyd, Thomas, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, NC State’s Mike Glennon, Virginia’s Michael Rocco and UNC’s Bryn Renner—from the state of Virginia.
“If I’m not playing one of those guys that day, I’m always rooting for those guys,” Boyd said. “That’s a VA guy. I will walk around saying, ‘Look at my man out there?!’ It is like a fraternity, almost.”
Boyd tries to keep up with all of them, but it’s Thomas who he is closest to. The two exchange text messages and occasionally talk on the phone from time-to-time.
“We just like to see how the other guy is doing and things like that,” Boyd said. “We try not to talk football too much. Though we do try and pick each other up if one of us has had a bad game.”
That happened last year after Boyd and Clemson went to Virginia Tech and knocked off the Hokies—Virginia Tech’s only regular season loss in 2011. Thomas returned the favor a few weeks later when Georgia Tech knocked off the Tigers and ended Clemson’s possible bid at a national championship.
“We want to help each other out as much as we can because ultimately, both of our goals are to make it to the NFL,” Thomas said.
But, don’t look for that to happen in Death Valley on Saturday. That’s where Boyd’s and Thomas’ friendship takes a back seat. In fact, if you look close enough during warm ups, you might see Boyd staring Thomas down.
“It is going to be a lot of fun and it’s going to be competitive. I’m looking forward to it,” Boyd said. “I always try to bring that edge. When I see them across the way, I always let them know, ‘I see you. We will see who prevails at the end of the day.’”