Auburn, Ala.--While there were very few bright spots in Auburn’s 30-12 loss to Alabama in the Iron Bowl, some good plays from Coach Kevin Steele’s defense, and in particular the performance of freshman defensive back Daniel Thomas, were highlights for the Tigers.
Picking off a pair of passes and totaling six tackles in relief of Rudy Ford who went down on Saturday with an ankle injury, the Montgomery native finished off a very productive regular season in style despite the loss.
For the year Thomas has made 15 tackles to go along with his two interceptions, a nice level of production for someone who almost wasn't a part of the 2016 AU recruiting class.
Getting a very late scholarship offer from Auburn on national signing day, the Robert E. Lee High School standout spent a lot of time on campus in the spring watching the Tigers practice and getting to know the defense. That paid off in a big way this fall.
“Going into the season a lot of people didn’t expect me to play,” Thomas said. “It’s all just hard work and effort. Like Coach Steele always says, keep going to the next play.”
That effort is something his teammates have seen out of the freshman defensive back since day one. Linebacker Tre Williams said the Tigers respect Thomas because of what he does every day on the practice field.
“That lets you know that you don’t have to be the biggest guy or be the fastest,” Williams said of Thomas. “You just have to come out and play hard and the coaches will give you that opportunity.”
Saying he just “kept praying” for his opportunity to show what he could do this season, the freshman nickel's play against Alabama was something that defensive end Carl Lawson said gave the Tigers momentum.
“Daniel really stepped up in this game and put us in a position to make plays,” Lawson said. “He’s going to be a big-time player.”
Williams agrees with Lawson, saying that what Thomas did on Saturday was another step towards him being a key part of the defense for the Tigers next season and beyond.
“That was exciting,” Williams said. “That kid has a really bright future. For his first Iron Bowl, being a freshman, that’s something special. I’m very happy for him.”