GREENSBORO, N.C. — The last time Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu was in the same place as Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, Attaochu threw a punch. But in their latest encounter, at the ACC’s annual football kickoff in Greensboro, N.C., the Yellow Jackets linebacker couldn’t stop praising his former adversary.

It seems a friendly text message from Attaochu – “You’re a D-end playing quarterback … How am I supposed to take you down?” Thomas recounted – helped smooth things over in the immediate aftermath of Attaochu’s ejection from Virginia Tech’s 37-26 win over Georgia Tech last November. The Washington native took a swing at Thomas’s helmet as the signal caller fought for extra yards late in the third quarter of that game.

But Attaochu went one step further Sunday, noting the challenge Georgia Tech faces when it prepares for its nationally televised season opener against the Hokies in September.

“You might need to get Cam Newton to run your scout team,” he said.

Eleven of the 12 teams in the ACC return their starting quarterbacks from last season, but few stood out like Thomas here – and not just because of his towering 6-foot-6, 256-pound frame. A year after easing his way into the starting role at Virginia Tech, Thomas has emerged as one of the top NFL prospects in all of college football and the flock of reporters surrounding him throughout the afternoon suggested life will never quite be the same for the Lynchburg native.

For his part, Thomas is trying his best to stay even-keeled, reiterating that he feels more at ease now that he knows what to expect following a record-breaking redshirt sophomore campaign in 2011.

“This year there’s not a butterfly in my stomach, not a worry in my mind,” Thomas said. “I’m just excited to get the season started. I know what I can do. I know what this team can do.”

In the spring, Thomas embraced more of a leadership role on an offense that lost ACC player of the year David Wilson, wide receivers Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale and four of its five starting offensive linemen from a year ago. He then spent the summer working on his footwork, hoping to improve his accuracy, particularly when it comes to deep corner routes.

But since Thomas last played in the Sugar Bowl in January, he has become a ballyhooed name amongst NFL scouts, tabbed by ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. and others as one of the top quarterback prospects in the country this year. So even though Thomas wanted to focus on what his development could mean for the coming season, when he expects Virginia Tech’s offense to adopt a quicker pace at times, he couldn’t avoid questions about whether this could be his last year in a Hokies uniform.

“It’s tough to turn down the top five just because you don’t know how long your body is gonna hold up, the money,” Thomas said. “But either way it’ll be tough for me because you’ll be entering into the real world and, I guess, a real job as they say. You’re moving away from family, moving away from friends and you’re going into an environment you’re not exactly comfortable with the people that are around you.”

Thomas promised that his sudden star turn on the national stage wouldn’t change him as a person.

“I don’t really care what they say. I just want to go out there every day and be better,” he said. “I’ll come out here and be the same person I am every day – a fun-loving, funny guy who loves the hard work but loves his family and friends as well. It’s not gonna change me if I do make it to the league. First round, seventh round, undrafted or if I’m working in a tool shed somewhere, I’m not gonna change the person I am.”