Zac Thomas Defies Doubt On Way To The NFL

Zac Thomas

An audience of more than 100,000 rooting for you to fail isn’t the most welcoming way in which to start a new job. For Zac Thomas, these conditions set a fitting tone. 

Thomas made his first college start, quarterbacking Appalachian State at Penn State in 2018. Despite chatter of another Mountaineers game long past -- App State was in Big Ten Country exactly 11 years to the day of its historic win at Michigan, didn’t you know? -- little was expected of the team from Boone. 

The experts in the Mojave Desert deemed Appalachian State a four-touchdown underdog. The matchup didn’t even make the cut for ESPN College Gameday’s panel of picks. 

Gone was Taylor Lamb, a four-year starter who passed for 90 touchdowns and almost 10,000 yards, rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored another 23 times on the ground. Thomas took over as a relative unknown, a 2-star recruit from Hewitt-Trussville (Alabama) with just 10 collegiate pass attempts to his name. 

In front of a Beaver Stadium crowd equal to the population of a mid-sized city, all Thomas did was pass for 270 yards, two touchdowns, and run for another 43 yards with a score en route to an overtime classic. 

And, as Thomas put it, “We should have won the game.” 

That one might have gotten away from Thomas and the Mountaineers, but very few did in his three years as starting quarterback. The quarterback wrapped up a college career with two Sun Belt Conference championships, the league’s Offensive Player of the Year award in 2018, and a Top 25 finish in 2019 (as well as finishing 26th in 2018 polling). 

Thomas’ college career was remarkable indeed, continuing the impressive quarterback legacy Appalachian State’s established in recent years. Armanti Edwards won two Walter Payton Awards and two national championships at the FCS level; Lamb led the smooth transition to FBS; and Thomas helped establish the new standard for the program. 

“The seniors paved the way for my class,” Thomas said. “They passed us the torch and we kept it going.” 

Thomas also praised the “great head coaches” he played for at Appalachian State. The program’s success provided new opportunities for Scott Satterfield (Louisville) and Eliah Drinkwitz (Missouri), and Mountaineers alum Shawn Clark this past campaign. 

Before the program’s FBS era, however, Jerry Moore was the picture of stability. The 23-year Appalachian State head coach has been another resource for Thomas on his football journey. 

Thomas’ is an especially impressive resume for a quarterback in his position, who said as far back as high school faced down doubters. 

“It’s the biggest blessing to me,” Thomas said of being overlooked. “ saying I wasn’t going to be good enough to play in college. That’s what’s fueled me to be a better quarterback, to put in the work to be the best quarterback I can be.”

Debuting in Happy Valley with low outside expectations was just par for the course, so it’s small wonder Thomas fared so well. The same goes for his replacing Lamb in general, a job Thomas described as “hard shoes to fill.”

And Thomas is again ready to prove himself as an NFL prospect. 

The quarterback is on an odyssey over the coming months in pursuit of his pro aspirations, starting with the Tropical Bowl in Orlando. Thomas will take snaps for the National team and distribute the ball to such noteworthy fellow all-stars as Greg McCrae and Riley Lees.  

He’ll also have another outlet to display the qualities that make Thomas an intriguing NFL prospect. He cited his dual-threat playmaking as his strongest trait, particularly within context of where the pro game is trending. 

Reigning Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes is a prime example, having rushed for 302 yards in the 2020 regular season. Last season’s MVP, Lamar Jackson, just completed his second campaign running for more than 1,000 yards. 

Having passed for a hair below 7,000 yards in three seasons, and rushing for more than 1,300 yards with 19 touchdowns, Thomas exemplifies a skill set the pros once shunned but now embrace. 

Making that step from college to the NFL comes with inherent pressure, but Zac Thomas’ entire career has been defined by his ability to defy expectations in pressure-packed situations. You can ask 105,000 people in Pennsylvania about it. 

CAA Rewind: Big Second Half Sends JMU Into League Play Riding High

Screen Shot 2021-02-28 at 9.38.27 PM.png

Contrasts in the importance of finishing stronger than a team starts shaped the final weekend before Colonial Athletic Association competition kicks off in the 2021 spring season.  

Led By A Disruptive Defense, Dukes Set To Host Robert Morris

Screen Shot 2021-02-26 at 8.20.48 AM.png

Rarely does a defensive performance get overshadowed when it produces a shutout, but that seemed to be the case with the James Madison defense following Saturday’s 52-0 triumph over Morehead State.

Stony Brook's Sam Kamara Is Back & He's Ready To Wreak Havoc


Sam Kamara plays with a rarely matched ferocity on every snap, in total control of his place in the trenches. But the Stony Brook defensive lineman spent a portion of the past year in a situation beyond his control. 

JMU Running Game Flashes Depth & Dominance In Opener

Screen Shot 2021-02-24 at 1.23.17 PM.png

Numerous Colonial Athletic Association teams have featured multi-pronged rushing attacks through the years, but perhaps no CAA program has enjoyed the depth at running back that James Madison has this season.

CAA Rewind: Dukes Roll, Baughman Steps Up For Elon

Screen Shot 2021-02-23 at 7.29.06 AM.png

More than 13 months passed between the end of James Madison’s last season and kickoff of the current, but the Dukes look like they missed no time at all. 

How To Watch James Madison, Elon Open CAA Spring Regular Season

Download The FloSports iOS App Today

Create a free account to unlock this video!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Elon and James Madison will kick off the unique spring 2021 season with a pair of non-conference games on Saturday. 

Elon Looks To Continue Upward Trajectory On Strength Of Playmaking Defense


A year ago, Elon was among the few programs around college football nearing the end of its spring practice season. The Phoenix were coming off a strong finish to their first season under head coach Tony Trisciani, which concluded with an impressive win over nationally ranked Towson. 

Despite Oddity Of Spring, JMU's Title Aspirations Remain Unchanged

Inside The Rise Of Curt Cignetti

Create a free account to unlock this video!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

James Madison’s first season under coach Curt Cignetti came just a few yards shy of the pinnacle. The Dukes’ 2019 campaign ended at the goal line with a chance to force overtime against North Dakota State in the FCS Championship Game. 

Richmond's Beau English Turns Pandemic Into Law School Opportunity


Plenty of us set lofty goals during the forced downtime brought on by COVID-19, but how many can say they reached an especially ambitious milestone?

How to Watch: 2021 Richmond vs William & Mary


Here's how to watch the 2021 Richmond vs William & Mary on FloFootball.