Spotlight: Juanyeh Thomas, 9/1/17

Spotlight: Juanyeh Thomas, 9/1/17

Niceville's Juanyeh Thomas a lot going for him. He's a great athlete with an engaging personality.

He's a sought-after recruit that is committed to Georgia Tech, but the smile that radiates when you met him belies a traumatic incident from his youth that still affects and drives him.

Not only did Juanyeh Thomas start playing football early, the 5-year-old played up right from the start in a league with 8-year-olds.

But it didn't take long for him to start excelling and then following in the footsteps of his older brother, Azende . He quickly made a name for himself at Walton High School.

As a sophomore, Juanyeh ran an interception back for a touchdown, a pick six, in five straight games.

That prompted him to make a move and transfer to Niceville.

John Hicks said it took about five plays in practice to realize his new player was a division one college athlete.

It's not just the great athleticism and speed, but a tough mindset.

He's shined at receiver and defensive back at Niceville, but they are quick to point out as good of an athlete as he is - Juanyeh is a better person.

There is also a deeper side to this charismatic young man, one born of heartache - an incident that would forever affect his life happened 13 years ago when he was four.

His dad had just gotten back from a deployment in Iraq and after a year in jail was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and sentenced to 10 years probation. He's no longer involved in the family.

The love of his mom Stephanie and his four siblings has made it all bearable, but lingering realities ensure that it's never easy.

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