University of Miami football coach Mark Richt spoke about former Hurricanes wide receiver Jeff Thomas publicly for the first time on Monday during his weekly time slot on WQAM radio.
Thomas was dismissed from the Hurricanes (7-5, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) last Wednesday heading into the Pittsburgh game, which Miami won 24-3 on Saturday to end the regular season.
Sources said Thomas, a high school All-American at East St. Louis and key piece of the Flyers IHSA 7A championship in 2016, was widely recognized as the Canes’ most gifted player on offense, but that he clashed with coaches, and had off-field struggles.
“If you read the quote, everybody has got to do thing a certain way and work within the system,’’ Richt told WQAM host Joe Rose, who wanted to know what happened and if the parting was mutual. “That’s all. It just didn’t work out is the best way to say it. I’m a Jeff fan and I want Jeff to have success in the future but it just wasn’t going to happen here.”
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Rose tried again, saying that “some people thought he was frustrated, he wasn’t getting the ball enough. Some said he wasn’t following rules.”
Richt wouldn’t bite.
“Well, it’s over,’’ Richt responded. “I’m not going to get into the details. It’s just not what I do.”
Richt’s original statement after Thomas was dismissed: “We have high standards for excellence, for conduct and for the commitment to team for all of the young men who wear our uniform, and we will not waver from those standards. We wish Jeff the very best as he moves forward in his journey.’’
Thomas departed the team with 35 catches for 563 yards and three touchdowns. He also averaged more than 24 yards and another touchdown on 20 punt and kickoff returns.
Attempts by the Belleville News-Democrat to reach Thomas have gone unanswered, though sources have said he wants to transfer to Illinois.
Thomas’ only comments on his dismissal from Miami came in a Tweet”
“Regarding the situation with me. I did not get kicked off the team as of how bad it sounds. I came to a agreement with my Head Coach on leaving the program to better my future life and family life. I couldn’t thank this program of how much they’ve done for me, and the things I’ve done on the field is my way of respect for the program. Much Love!!”
Thomas had similar issues in high school, as outlined in the nationally-televised documentary on the Flyers 2016 season, “89 Blocks.” He missed two games and for more than three weeks ignored phone calls and texts from coaches and teammates. East Side coach Darren Sunkett left it to team captains to decide Thomas’ future with the team.