"It's an unbelievable feeling," Thomas told host Chris Fowler of ESPN. "Coming in as a freshman you hear a lot about the great names it front of you, and then to find out none of them ever won the Outland Trophy. This is quite an honor."
The Outland Trophy, the third-longest award in college football, was presented to Thomas by 1975 winner and NFL Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon. It was the 61st time the award had been given.
The official award presentation of the Outland Trophy will be held Jan. 11 in Omaha, Neb., at a banquet sponsored by the Omaha Sports Committee. The other finalists were Texas offensive lineman Justin Blalock and West Virginia center Dan Mozes.
Thomas, a team captain and native of Brookfield, Wis., also was named to the Walker Camp Offensive All-American Team earlier in the show.
Thomas had more good news to tell Fowler. He proposed to girlfriend and former Wisconsin women's basketball player Annie Nelson Wednesday night in Florida.
Thomas and the Badgers will play in their second consecutive Capital One Bowl against Arkansas on New Year's Day. Kickoff is scheduled for noon central.