Q&A with James Thomas

Senior linebacker James Thomas has played his role almost perfectly as the Cowboys have shot out to a 9-0 start. Thomas, the Cowboys' reserve 'star' linebacker, is tied for the team lead with four interceptions and he returned his most recent one against Kansas State to the 5-yard line. Thomas took the time to participate in a Q&A on Monday.

Texas Tech has played the role of giant killer once already this season but they have suffered two straight lopsided losses. Which Tech team are you expecting to show up Saturday morning?

"We're going to go to Lubbock and they're going to have a chip on their shoulder because we're the No. 2 team in the country and they're going to want to be an upset team again like they were with Oklahoma. They're going to give us their all."

What are your early impressions of Tech quarterback Seth Doege?

"Doege, man, I've been watching him on film and he's really good. He's a good athlete, a good passer and he puts it on the money. We're going to have to get pressure."

What did you think of the earthquake that hit Boone Pickens Stadium after the game?

"Earthquake? I didn't feel it. I heard the rumbling in the stadium but I just thought it was people running around upstairs. I didn't know it was an earthquake. I think it was my first one; we never got them when I was growing up in Texas."

How was it when you switched from safety to linebacker?

"At first I didn't know what to think, man. I had to gain weight and hit linemen more. I was thinking, ‘Ugh, I'm only 200 pounds and I have to hit 300-pounders?' But it didn't end up being that big a transition. I take it as a blessing in disguise. I'm closer to the ball now and I'm in the mix more. At safety you have to drop back into coverage most of the time so you don't really get to hit people, strip the ball or any of that until they're 10 yards down the field or have caught a pass. Like I said, I look at it as a blessing in disguise; I love it."

What was the hardest part of that?

"I think it was the quickness of the game. At safety, it takes a while for the play to develop and get to you but at linebacker it's there. You have to be there when it happens and know what you're doing. And the physical part, too. You have two guards and two tackles coming right at you and they want a piece. You have to be on your toes or they're just going to grab you and swallow you."

You're No. 2 in the BCS and if you win you're in. That must feel pretty good.

"We're not there yet. It's a great feeling. This team is blessed. We love the ranking and everything but we're not focused on that; we're focused on Texas Tech and taking care of business. We have to take it one game at a time and hopefully we'll end up in a good spot at the end of the year."

As evidenced by the K-State game and the Texas A&M game, this team seems to have a sense of belief that you all can do whatever it takes to win.

"Oh yea, we preach that. All the coaches, they preach it, man. Anybody can play good when things are going good but it comes down to how you respond when things are bad. We took that to heart and everybody is buying in. We just believe that no matter what we're going to win the game."

Coach Gundy mentioned a few weeks ago that on third down he might as well just put you in the game because the opposing quarterback is going to throw it right to you and it happened again Saturday. What has led to you getting all the opportunities you've had?

"I love. I absolutely love it. I give the best effort I can and I've just been ending up in the right spot."

Is it getting to a point where you're just like, ‘I can't believe I have the ball again?'

"No, not really. It actually getting to a point where I'm thinking, ‘How can I get the ball again,' I want the ball in my hands all the time. I used to be an offensive guy in high school. I played defense, too, but heck, if I can get the ball in my hands I just love it."

What offensive positions did you play in high school?

"I played wide receiver, tight end, quarterback and a little running back. Mostly it was quarterback and wide receiver. I played safety and corner on defense."

Texas Tech is a pretty hostile place to go after back-to-back home games. What do you remember about your two previous trips to Lubbock?

"They've got some passionate fans, man. A lot of people I know that have been to their games, our fans specifically, they say they're rude. A very rude bunch. I don't know, I just see it like Texas Tech fans are like Oakland Raider fans. They're passionate about their team and they're going to do anything and everything to help them. It's a great environment to play in and it's a tough environment to play in. I was there when we got our butts spanked by Crabtree and those guys. I was there last year when we went down there and gave it to them right back. I've seen both sides; it's an iffy place. If you don't start fast and let those fans stay in the game then it's going to be a long day."

Now we've already touched on this a little, but you all have said all year that the rankings don't matter but at this point of the season they do. There are other unbeaten teams that don't have the luxury of knowing they'll be in the title game if they win out. You all do. It has to be pretty nice to know that, right?

"Well yea, don't get me wrong, it's in the back of everyone's mind. We're still amazed with how well we're doing and how blessed we are and we just keep saying, ‘Man, if we can win these last three games, we in it, man.' It's in everybody's mind but, at the same time, we've gotta win those three games. We have to take each game one-by-one and focus on that team alone for that week. And hopefully at the end of the year we can just celebrate. That's the goal and that's how we're going to achieve it."

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