Every group of friends has dreamed of playing professional sports at least once in their childhood, sitting under the neighborhood bench, field, or basket.
But most of them don’t really do that.
Most of them couldn’t get together like they did earlier this year with the Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas, the Chargers left tackle Jamalie Sullier, and the Colts back Dion Jackson, and “done it. To tell.
“This past off-season, we had dinner and sat down. Sometimes it’s better to focus on the next day and get better. It’s just a second to sit and think about how far we’ve come.” It won’t take long,” Thomas told the Daily News on Thursday of the three former Pace Academy, Georgia teammates. “We used to talk in high school about playing in the league. It’s great to see the friends you grew up with succeeding.”
Jackson and Sullire exchanged jerseys and signed autographs after the Chargers’ Monday Night Football win 20-3 in Indianapolis last week. So when he and Thomas first step onto the football field as opponents, Jackson knows at least one thing he’s taking home from the Colts’ visit to MetLife Stadium to face the Giants. ing.
“Andrew has to take off his jersey. I need it,” Jackson laughed, telling News over the phone on Friday. It’s crazy to play against
Their trajectories from Atlanta’s Pace Academy have been mixed since Thomas and Jackson’s sophomore year won the 2015 Georgia Class AA state championship game.
Thomas, 23, was drafted 4th overall by the Giants out of Georgia in the 2020 NFL Draft. Jackson, 23, signed the Colts undrafted in 2021 from Duke, who was playing with Daniel Jones.
Thalia, 22, has been a friend of Thomas’ since middle school and has followed him to both Pace and Georgia.
Thomas was a Pro Bowl-level left tackle, although he lost the vote.
“I always knew he was a player of that ability,” Sarrier said of Thomas in a phone call on Friday. increase.”
Salyer helped the Chargers earn a playoff berth protecting Justin Herbert’s blind side in place of injured starter Rashawn Slater.
“Jamarie comes to work every day with the intention of doing whatever she can to reach her goals,” Thomas said. “Of course I think he should have been drafted higher.”
Jackson is an opportunistic dual-threat runner as well as a pass catcher from the Indy backfield.
Giants quarterback Jones said of his former Blue Devils teammate: “He’s a great guy, a great friend and a good teammate.”
But nothing was easy for these young people. That’s what makes their story special.
Pace Academy’s Brooklyn-born offensive line coach Kevin Johnson woke up at 3:30 a.m. every day and trained Thalia and Thomas at 6:15 a.m.
“I told them to take care of your books and play ball.
Johnson, who was also the offensive coordinator at the time, honed their technique, took them to camp, and forced Thomas to quit baseball to limit extracurricular activities to soccer and music. He also took the players on recruitment trips.
“Coach Kev called it a ‘blueprint,'” Sarrier said of Johnson’s structure.
Jackson, then a receiver and defensive back, worked out three times a day during his sophomore year of high school.
“People don’t realize how much work we put into this,” he said. we were working.”
Johnson’s line to Jackson was always, “Don’t miss the bus.” In other words, even though he’s talented, he works on time and does things the right way.
“Don’t miss the real bus,” Jackson said Friday with a laugh. “That’s what he was preaching to me. Now it’s pretty much going according to plan. Coach Keb let us plan.
They saw the fruits of their hard work long before the NFL, like Thomas’ freshman year in Georgia when Sarria was still back on pace in his senior season.
“I’ve never told this story before,” Johnson said. “One of the reasons why Georgia recruited Andrew so eagerly was because they wanted Jamalie. Georgia never intended for Andrew to be ready to play. I got a call in his second week. [then-Georgia offensive line coach] Sam Pittman.
“He says, ‘What are you doing at Pace Academy?’ Andrew is probably the third or second best offensive lineman on the team. We’re going to start him at guard.” recalls Johnson. “I told him I could guard him. Andrew just wanted to play. Then the next week he called again and said, ‘Coach, he’s playing with everybody. I’m going to make him a light tackle in the first game.”
The rest is history, and the Pace crew is extremely loyal. Johnson is still upset that Thomas was “snubbed at the Pro Bowl.”
“Knowing him, he took it personally,” he said of Thomas. only.” Jackson wrote
Salyer said Jackson said “he’s proud of me” when they exchanged jerseys on the field last week.
“Getting out of the tunnel on Monday Night Football was a big moment for me,” Sarrier said.
Thomas said he was “thrilled” for Jackson, a “very talented athlete” who “worked hard and always went the extra mile”.
And Jackson raved about his former Duke teammate Jones, who last saw him at the wedding of college teammate Chiefs tight end Noah Gray this summer. rice field.
“He’s been in New York for years and I told people not to sleep on him. He’s that kind of guy!” Jackson said. “I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Just wait. I’m happy to see his success this year. He deserves all the praise and recognition he’s getting.” .”
Thomas admitted he wanted to be on the same NFL team with Sullier, who he’s “played with all his life” since he was 12 at Chapel Hill Middle School in DeKalb County.
“I wanted [keep playing with him] When he came to the league and came to finish it, it didn’t work out,” he said with a smile. “Maybe we still have time.”
In the meantime, he plans to meet his best friend Jackson at the 50-yard line Sunday afternoon to thank him again for what Johnson described as a “special” achievement.
“It’s been years in the making,” Jackson said. “It’s unreal.”
Giants game status
i doubt it: CB Adore Jackson (knee). Question: OLB Azeez Ojulari (ankle)
Giants coach Brian Dabor said of Xavier McKinney on safety:
Leonard Williams (neck) remained restricted on Friday but will play out of final injury report
Colts game status
Out: CB Kenny Moore II (ankle), WR Ashton Durin (concussion), TE Kylen Granson (ankle).