Player Profile #95 – RB Daniel Thomas

There has never been just one road to the NFL Draft. The players that become available each year are generally young men who attended the same college for at least three years.

But there are always exceptions, with players taking many detours before the find themselves a spot where their skills shine. That group in the 2011 NFL Draft includes RB Daniel Thomas. To call him a Kansas State product would be to discount a large part of his travels to the edge of the Draft. From junior college limbo to leading the Big 12 Conference in rushing, Thomas showed his determination and perservance.

He’s got one more test to come; a hamstring injury has hampered him in the last few months, causing him to pull out of the Senior Bowl and he did not run at the NFL Combine. He’s set to run for league personnel types in just over two weeks.

It will be an important day and another chapter in his story.

FAMILY BUSINESS

Daniel Thomas

Born: October 29, 1987 in Hilliard, Florida, a town of just under 3,000 on the Georgia/Florida state line in the most northeastern part of Florida.

Family: Parents are Jerald and Louella Thomas. Daniel is the youngest of five children. Dad is the pastor at the Elm Grove Baptist Church just across the state line in Meridian, Georgia.

BODY OF WORK

  • Height – 6-feet, ¼-inch.
  • Weight – 230 pounds.
  • Arms – 32 3/8 inches.
  • Hands – 9 inches.
  • 40-yard dash – will run on April 5.
  • Bench press – 21 repetitions at 225 pounds.

HIGH SCHOOL

Thomas graduated from Hilliard Middle-Senior High School, class of ’06. He earned all-district and all-state honors for his play at quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker and safety over his high school career. It was his play as an option quarterback in his senior season that drew the most attention.

He earned All-Nassau County honors on the basketball floor, averaging 17.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for the Flashes.

FOOTBALL

2005 – In his senior season, he ran for 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns as an option quarterback. He threw for another 936 yards and 11 TD passes. As a safety, Thomas had 57 tackles and one interception.

2004 – As a junior, Thomas played primarily wide receiver, catching 34 passes for 596 yards and four TDs. He also ran for 178 yards and a TD.

RECRUITING

Thomas was heavily recruited by most of the schools in the southeast. He was made an oral commitment to Florida, and then later was offered a scholarship by Mississippi. But a combination of poor grades and a lack of the right courses during his high school career made in ineligible under NCAA rules.

JUNIOR COLLEGE

When Thomas and his father showed up on the campus of Northwest Mississippi Community College, in Senatobia he had the opportunity for a tryout to make the Rangers roster. There was no guarantee of a spot on the team or tuition help to pay for school. The next day, head coach Randy Pippin called the Pastor Thomas and thanked him for the gift.

Thomas worked at both quarterback and running back at Northwest, as the team finished 6-4 in both seasons. He earned honorable mention All-JUCO honors in his second season.

2007 – At quarterback, Thomas ran for 618 yards on 103 carries with six TDs, and also threw for 450 yards and two TD passes.

2006 – Ran for over 500 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman and helped the Rangers win a division championship.

RECRUITING

In his second trip through the recruiting process, he drew interest from Kansas State, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Thomas made an initial commitment to Ole Miss, but it was in that process that Thomas found out he did not have enough hours to enter a four-year college. He remained at Northwest Mississippi in the fall of 2008, but did not play football. At the urging of Bill Snyder, he spent the spring semester of 2009 at Butler County Community College in El Dorado, Kansas. By early summer of ’09, Thomas was on campus in Manhattan and needed only to take two more courses at Manhattan Christian College to qualify.

COLLEGE

Thomas thought he was signing with Snyder and the Wildcats as a QB, but found out he was a RB on the first day of the late summer training camp. In his first game against Massachusetts, he ran for 104 yards on 23 carries.

Before his time with K-State was finished, he earned Big 12 Conference offensive newcomer of the year, along with all-Big 12 first-team honors; he led the conference in rushing. In just 25 games, he established himself as one of the greatest runners in K-State history.

2010 – Opened the season with 234 yards on 28 carries against UCLA with a pair of TD runs. Later in the season, Thomas ran for 269 yards on 36 carries against North Texas. He ran for 100 yards or more seven times in 13 games. He finished the season with 1,585 yards to rank eighth in the nation. His 19 TD runs was one short of the school record.

2009 – Stepped into the Big 12 and made an immediate impact as he ran for 1,265 yards on 247 carries and 11 TDs. Those carries were the second most in school history. He ran for more than 100 yards five times, including a season high 185 yards against Kansas. Thomas also ran for four TDs against Texas A&M.

Year

G

S

Rush

Yards

Avg

TDs

 

Rec.

Yards

Avg.

TDs

2010

13

13

298

1,585

5.3

19

 

27

171

6.3

0

2009

12

12

247

1,265

5.1

11

 

25

257

10.3

0

Total

25

25

545

2,850

5.2

30

 

52

428

8.2

0

PerGame

x

x

21.8

114

5.2

1.2

 

2.1

17.1

8.2

0

Thomas was 7 of 12 throwing the ball for 155 yards, 2 TD passes and 1 INT.

EVALUATION FOR PRO FOOTBALL

STRENGTHS – Very strong runner, who isn’t afraid of contact, but works hard to avoid being hit. Always seems to be going forward, as he seldom gets knocked backward and when he’s tackled, Thomas always seems to fall forward. He’s a north-south runner, and doesn’t do well running east –west or sideways. Hits the hole on quick hitters with power and moves. Durable, tough player who went through his entire ’09 season with a shoulder injury he suffered in the first game of the season. With his QB background in JUCO, he can play in the Wildcat role. No known character issues off the field.

WEAKNESSES – He’s not really an explosive runner and does not have great speed. Ball security is a concern, as he tends to hold the ball away from his body and usually in his right hand. In two seasons he had 11 fumbles, losing seven. Not possessed with great speed and he’ll have trouble making the edge against NFL defenses. His dollars will be earned between the tackles. A liability as a pass protector, largely because he doesn’t appear to take the role seriously; that’s one thing that will have to change.

ANALYSIS – Thomas himself said his running style is very similar to that of Larry Johnson. Watch the tape and there are some obvious comparisons there. If he lands with a team that wants to make him the feature back, then it’s possible his career will only be a few years because of the pounding. He’s a power-type back, along the lines of Tampa Bay’s LeGarrette Blount. Other than his ability to pick his way through the wash between the tackles, Thomas is not exceptional in any single area as a running back.

WHAT THE SCOUTS SAY

From an AFC scout – “I like his toughness and the fact he’s always moving forward, even when he’s tackled. That’s a little thing that a lot of backs pay no attention to, but can produce over the course of a game a few more yards, a few more first downs. He’s not much of a factor in the passing game, as a receiver or in pass protection.”

From an NFC scout – “This hamstring thing that’s kept him from running for anybody in the last six weeks or so is troubling. He’s a big back, and he can’t be knocked off the field by things like hamstrings. This year he’s helped by a pretty poor RB situation overall. He could be the second back taken.”

WHAT HE SAYS

On what he brings to an offense – “A physical game, a guy that can carry the load the whole game if you need me to. I’m an athlete back there. I can do whatever you need me to do.”

Here’s a portion of Thomas’ comments at the NFL Combine.

Daniel Thomas 

WHAT OTHERS SAY

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder – “The message that Daniel sends is that a really good person can aspire to certain things when they have a set of principles and value systems. Daniel has all the things we try to teach our children to have success.”

More from Snyder on Thomas as a player – “He’s become a complete player. He has tremendous toughness, the ability to stay on his feet, good change of direction and good vision. If you say, ‘Daniel, you’re a safety, you’re an offensive tackle,’ Daniel would say, ‘Show me what to do.’ That’s just the way he is.”

Iowa State coach Paul Rhodes – “He combines both power and elusiveness, and that’s a heck of a combination. Usually when you’ve got a big physical back, he’s more of a north-south type of guy. He can do both. To do that with his size and speed combination is scary.”

DOES HE FIT WITH THE CHIEFS?

A team can never have enough good running backs and there’s no question the Chiefs will need to find a replacement for Thomas Jones, or a back that’s more power than speed like they get from Jamaal Charles. Whether that man is Daniel Thomas is highly doubtful at this point – there are too many other spots to fill on this roster. Plus, every year produces good RB prospects.

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