Central Catholic’s Xxavier Thomas gets offer he ‘always wanted,’ commits to Penn State

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Thursday, December 21, 2023 | 12:01 AM


Xxavier Thomas says he was ready to commit to Penn State since visiting the campus a year ago, but the Central Catholic junior first needed an offer from the Nittany Lions.

That arrived Wednesday.

After school, he and his parents joined a video conference call with Penn State coaches James Franklin and Terry Smith. Thomas said he heard the words he’d been waiting months to hear.

“They offered me,” he said, “and I committed on the spot.”

A 5-foot-10, 170-pound cornerback and kick returner, Thomas became the third Central Catholic player to commit to Penn State in two years. Vikings seniors Anthony Speca, a linebacker, and Peter Gonzalez, a wide receiver, signed Wednesday with the Nittany Lions.

Thomas, whose brother plays safety in the NFL, waited a day to make his commitment public. He shared his decision on social media.

“Ever since I was up there for that first camp, I knew it was home right then and there,” he said.

Thomas had four interceptions this fall and earned all-conference honors for the second year in a row. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, including a 99-yarder in the WPIAL Class 6A final.

Thomas said Penn State coaches mentioned his long return that came on the opening kickoff.

“He’s probably the most dynamic returner I’ve been around in my coaching career,” Central Catholic coach Ryan Lehmeier said. “He has a knack for it and a natural ability. You really can’t coach that.”

As a defensive back, Lehmeier said, Thomas is “extremely instinctive” and has “great feel” for the position.

“He has a tremendous ability to break on the ball,” Lehmeier said. “You also saw in the WPIAL championship game that he plays big in big games under bright lights.”

Before committing to Penn State, the only offer Thomas had came in July from Yale, the Ivy League alma mater of older brother Rodney, who now plays safety for the Indianapolis Colts. But Thomas said he was confident that, if he stayed patient, Penn State would offer.

He is the third WPIAL player from the 2025 class to choose Penn State, joining Aliquippa’s Tiqwai Hayes and North Catholic’s Brady O’Hara.

“I was blessed to get that Yale offer because my brother went there,” Thomas said. “He has always been a role model for me. I couldn’t ask for a better one. … But I’ve always wanted a Penn State offer.”

He twice attended Penn State camps, and this fall was on campus for three games, most recently Nov. 11 against Michigan. He also was there for the season opener and the White Out game.

Thomas said a sense of camaraderie among players and coaches was what he liked most about the program.

“It’s the togetherness up there,” he said. “It’s like a real brotherhood, like I’m used to now at Central Catholic.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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