Los Gatos High senior standout Jaylen Thomas is the ultimate Swiss Army Knife, making an impact at receiver, safety, punting, kick return and punt return. He even factors in with his arm, having completed 2-of-2 passes for a TD this season. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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When it comes to describing athletes, the terms Swiss Army Knife, versatile and jack of all trades are thrown around way too often. 

But if there is anyone who has earned to be called by those monikers, it’s Jaylen Thomas. The Los Gatos High senior extraordinaire displayed his magnificent skills once again in the Wildcats’ 22-21 loss to Grant High-Sacramento on Sept. 9. 

In typical Thomas fashion, the 6-foot, 175-pounder all but cleaned up the trash in the bleachers afterwards. Thomas is the ultimate difference-maker, playing wide receiver and safety but is also the team’s punter, punt returner and primary kickoff returner.

For good measure, Los Gatos (2-1) usually scripts a play or two into the game and utilizes Thomas’ arm, either off the snap or as an option pass. And his ability to pass was on full display when he threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Scott Garwood in the non-league tilt with Grant. 

Thomas had one reception for six yards, one rush for nine yards, an interception he returned 35 yards, 13 tackles, and returned two punts and three kickoffs. His kickoff return ability is all the more impressive because kickoff returns are viewed as one of the game’s most dangerous plays, which is a big reason why the NFL has implemented drastic rule changes to kickoff returns over the last couple of years, reasoning that it will reduce injuries, especially concusssions. 

It’s no wonder then that Thomas—with all the pounding his body takes on Friday nights—doesn’t feel fully recovered until Monday. 

“My body is busted up because I try to leave it all on the field,” he said. “I sacrifice my body for my teammates. I’m definitely sore on Saturday and even Sunday so I do a lot of cold tubs and stretch out and roll out [foam roller] as much as possible.”

As a junior last year, Thomas earned De Anza Division MVP honors, a huge accomplishment considering in most years the league’s top award goes to a senior. But Thomas’ overwhelming impact could not be denied, and he’ll be among the short list of candidates for the Peninsula Athletic League De Anza Division MVP this season. 

Though limited receiving-wise against Grant, Thomas had a couple of huge games on the offensive side before that. In a season-opening 45-14 win over Soquel, Thomas had five catches for 84 yards and two TDs, including a highlight-reel one-handed grab.  

However, Thomas counts his electrifying 71-yard TD reception in a riveting 35-34 win over Liberty-Brentwood as his top highlight thus far. It came on a straight go route down the left side and accouned for the opening score of the game, staking the Wildcats to a 7-0 lead. 

“It’s always nice to set the tone as the away team and you quiet the home crowd,” he said. “Coach always believes in me to be a deep ball threat. He says Jaylen is going to beat his guy 1-on-1 so quarterback, you know your read before the snap and throw it to Jaylen [if the opportunity presents itself].”

Los Gatos actually fell behind by 20 points in the third quarter vs. Liberty before a furious rally gave it a one-point victory. Boxer Kopcsak-Yeung, who finished with 122 yards rushing on 20 carries, rushed for his third TD of the game with approximately two minutes remaining to account for the winning score. 

Thomas was tremendously impactful in several areas of the game vs. Liberty, recording eight tackles, including one for loss, and totaling 90 yards on two punt returns. Through it all, Thomas plays with an optimal mindset. Wildcats coach Mark Krail said Thomas is simply a joy to coach. 

“Positive attitude, hard working, team leader,” Krail said. “His future is bright and he’ll definitely be playing football after high school.” 

Thomas comes from an athletic family. His parents both played sports at San Jose State University, his dad football and his mom softball. Both of Thomas’ older sisters are currently playing softball at SJSU as well. Thomas’ dad Shawn is a receiver-defensive backs coach at Los Gatos, meaning the two get to spend extra quality time together, something Jaylen cherishes. 

After all, Jaylen said it was mostly his father’s doing for him to start playing Pop Warner Football at age 5. 

“He’s still my coach and has been my coach all my life from Pop Warner,” Jaylen said. “He’s always had my back and I feel like we’ve been a great duo.”

In fact, it was Thomas’ bond he had with his former Pop Warner Longhorns teammates—many of whom are his teammates currently—that convinced him to attend Los Gatos rather than enroll and play for a West Catholic Athletic League school. 

“That was the reason. The couple of years there, we grew a bond on the Longhorns and I decided I wanted to go to Los Gatos with my friends and play with them,” Thomas said.

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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