Those who know Thomas will attest that the 6-3, 228-pounder is a big lug on the sideline, but a big dog on the field. Nothing brings out his inner pit bull like an opponent talking smack or the sudden impact of leveling an unsuspecting defender.
"It gets the whole team excited when you see a big hit or somebody getting in somebodys face," Thomas said following Thursday morning practice at Denius Field. "It gets everybody motivated."
The last time most Orangebloods saw Thomas, he was pulling down a single-game career-best four catches for 49 yards in Texas 35-20 Cotton Bowl win over LSU. He played in all 13 games last season as a true freshman, contributing 105 yards on nine grabs.
"When I first got here, it was hard," he admits. "But after a few weeks, I finally got into it. Having the older guys help me helped out a lot. Everybody around here wants everybody else to do well. So after awhile I finally got the hang of it and got into the groove."
Thomas officially got into the groove with his first collegiate TD reception in Texas 49-0 romp over Tulane, prompting former QB Chris Simms to remark afterwards, "I cant believe hes just a freshman. He plays like a fifth-year senior."
Three weeks later, the "fifth-year" freshman scored on a two-yard toss from Simms in Texas 17-14 gutcheck at Kansas State, arguably the teams biggest win of 2003. Thomas third-quarter reception gave Texas some breathing room at 14-6 but, as important, revealed the trust both his quarterback and coaches had in him at mid-season.
Thomas entered the spring as the starting TE due, in part, to injuries that sidelined senior Bo Scaife and H-back Brock Edwards. While Scaife and Edwards are on the watch list for the McKay Award honoring the nations top tight end, Thomas did nothing but solidify his status in the Spring Game. Last April, he posted a team-high 113 yards on three catches, including a 60-yard TD run on a throwback screen from QB Chance Mock.
Thomas has been consistent throughout August, while Scaife has been phenomenal. Odds are that Scaife will get the starting nod come the August 31 home-opener against New Mexico State. Chances are that Thomas and Scaife play in the first series in a two TE alignment. Either way, Thomas does not mind.
In a day where it seems more and more young Division-I athletes spew self-serving verbiage into the salivating microphones of sports media (some youngsters from Ohio State and Florida immediately come to mind), you could not even pay one of Mack Browns players to publicly promote himself.
"As long as somebody is making the play, thats what were all about," Thomas said. "We want somebody to make the play, whether its us or our buddy, as long as somebody is making the play, well be happy."
And well be happy, too.