He didn’t expect to end up at Tennessee Tech, but now that Yeedee Thaenrat is there, he’s excelling.
Yeedee Thaenrat is great at changing directions.
That’s probably why he was so successful during his freshman year of college.
Thaenrat, a 2016 graduate of Father Judge High School, spent last summer working out with the Temple University football team. He had planned on enrolling in the school and playing with the Owls, but Temple didn’t have a scholarship to offer, so he thought he was out of luck.
“I thought I’d just go to (junior college) or a prep school,” Thaenrat said. “I wanted to play, I thought I’d just sit out one year, and then see what happens.”
While he was starting to look for an alternative, Thaenrat was contacted by Division I Tennessee Tech. It was two days before the Golden Eagles were slated to start summer camp, and he decided to take them up on an offer.
The offer was pretty clear: come down, see what you can do, and as soon as a scholarship became available, he’d sign.
“College is expensive, so I needed to make sure I had a chance to play and earn a scholarship,” Thaenrat said. “I thought it would take a little while, but I got it quicker than I thought I would. It was great, I needed it and they came through.”
So did Thaenrat.
Nobody expected Thaenrat to contribute too much during his freshman campaign.
He didn’t have a lot of continuity with his teammates because he joined the squad so late.
Also, he suffered a broken ankle during his senior year at Judge that kept him away from working out for the better part of his senior year.
He underwent surgery, and even after he recovered, he still had a lot of rehab to do before he was able to get back into football shape.
Then when he got into camp, he was at the bottom of the Golden Eagles’ depth chart.
“When I first got there, there were six or seven running backs ahead of me,” Thaenrat said. “I knew I had to show what I could do, but I had to see how it went. I didn’t go in as a starter or anything. They didn’t even know I was going to be there until the summer.”
He started off at the bottom of the depth chart.
Two weeks into the season, he was in the huddle.
Thaenrat, the all-time leading rusher in Father Judge history according to high school sports website tedsilary.com, excelled as soon as the Golden Eagles gave him the ball. He ended up rushing for 707 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games, leading the team in both categories. He also chipped in as a receiver, catching 17 passes for 176 yards.
The versatility made him a weapon for Tennessee Tech, which scored nearly 28 points per game and finished 5–6 overall, 5–3 in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Last year was a good start, according to Thaenrat, but this year, expectations are much higher.
“We got better every game, and the more we played together, the better we were,” Thaenrat said. “I put up better numbers, but it wasn’t because of me. It was because of the other guys. The offensive line really came through, and the receivers did a great job blocking downfield. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have had the season I had. I know why I did well.
“That makes this year so much more exciting. We’re already working for it. We’re already practicing together, doing all the things we need to do to be successful. We just have to trust the process and play together as a team.”
Thaenrat has another edge heading into his sophomore season.
Last year, he was still on the mend from the broken ankle he suffered in Judge’s playoff loss to La Salle during his senior year.
While he was physically healed when camp started, he still had the injury in the back of his mind. Also, no matter how much you practice for games, when they actually come around, it’s a shock to the system.
“I didn’t feel totally confident in my ankle until I got in there and realized I was going to be OK,” the Oxford Circle native said.
“Once I got some carries and got hit a few times, I felt more confident. That’s when I felt comfortable and knew I was going to be OK.”
Another aspect that Thaenrat had to get used to was not delivering the hits.
Throughout his days at Judge, Thaenrat was a feared safety who was famous for delivering thunderous hits to opponents who got in his way.
“That’s why I run like I do, I try to deliver a huge hit every time I get a carry,” Thaenrat said. “I definitely miss playing defense. I was recruited for defense at other places, but Tennessee Tech wanted me (to play running back). I miss it, I love running the ball.”
Now he just wants to put up big numbers while helping the Golden Eagles soar.
“I want more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, that’s my goal and the goal for our offense, and I can do it because of the guys I have playing with me,” Thaenrat said. “We want to play better as a team and win a lot more games. We are trusting the process, and that means working hard and getting better.”