Thomas impatient to prove his talent

Devin Thomas is through being patient. The receiver endured a year of community college ball before playing little one season behind three seniors at Michigan State. Finally, Thomas caught 79 passes last fall with seven 100-yard games and 2,590 all-purpose yards — all school marks. Forget coming back for a senior season.

Forget coming back for a senior season. Thomas was the Washington Redskins' top pick in the second round and will compete with fellow second-rounder Malcolm Kelly for playing time behind veterans Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El. "My confidence is real high so I feel good about going into a situation and performing," Thomas said. "I'm pretty patient, but when I'm ready I should be out there. I feel like I'm ready to take that role."

The Redskins want a big screamer running Z patterns. Someone who can get downfield, fend off a smaller defender and make a big catch. Thomas (6-foot-2, 218 pounds) tried to outmuscle defensive backs during minicamp like his NFL role models Anquan Boldin and Hines Ward.

"I feel like with my size I can fight for the ball using my body," Thomas said. "I can go up at my highest point and box out defensive backs or linebackers going across the middle. I can take some shots and keep on ticking, so I will be all right."

Said coach Jim Zorn: "What you see on video is he is willing to get off his feet to go get a ball. He can track it in. He also is physical. He doesn't shy away from contact. He is in there playing a physical ballgame against the competition that he was playing this year. Those are the things that we saw as well that we really liked."

The Redskins were surprised Thomas was still available with the 34th overall selection after considering him before trading their 21st selection. Mostly, Thomas' size and speed are the attraction.

"Speed, he ran like a 4.4 (seconds over 40 yards) and one time a 4.39 or 4.36," said receivers coach Stan Hixon. "The number one goal was to get a big receiver that could run. He has 4.4 speed and makes plays, touchdown plays."

Said Zorn: "I like the fact that he can run after he catches the ball. He is a young player with a lot of upside. He doesn't have injury problems coming out of college. With Devin, it is going to be how well he can pick up the offense, a whole different language, but his athleticism is right there and we just need to develop him."

Vice president Vinny Cerrato remembered the Michigan State-Wisconsin game when Thomas flashed his speed.

"You see [Thomas] catch a little bubble pass and he outruns everybody to the side, then he breaks it back and he outruns everybody," Cerrato said. "Any time the ball was thrown to him, we watched all of those plays. I don't know that there was one game, I think it was just a combination of everything that led up to it because you saw him do so many different [things]. He can make the big plays and catch short. He can play physical.''

Thomas spent 2005 at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, leading the Red Ravens to a 9-3 mark and No. 9 in the NJCAA poll. He caught 33 passes for 674 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. Thomas hoped Michigan would take him after attending a nearby high school, but only the Spartans were interested. So much for his beloved Wolverines.

"It was an easy choice," Thomas said. "When I was at junior college, I did real well in spring ball and I tried to get some of the Big Ten guys to come down because that is the hometown area if you want to go to Big Ten school. Michigan State is the only team that came back and offered me a scholarship. I took that and had a chip on my shoulder for the maize and blue and all the other teams. When I had my chance my junior year I tried to dominate as much as possible."

And dominate he did. After catching six passes for 90 yards and one touchdown as a sophomore, Thomas became a third-team All-American and All-Big Ten second-teamer.

Now Thomas seeks to prove he's not a one-year wonder. Adjusting to the Redskins' new West Coast Offense was trying over minicamp, but teammates were also learning so Thomas didn't feel alone.

"I tried to learn things on the fly, but I did all right," he said. "I'm starting to grasp it. Just do what's said."

Thomas has also developed a kinship with Kelly, with whom he roomed during several offseason events. They were reunited in the draft less than an hour apart.

"Malcolm and I have been talking since the combine. He is a great guy," Thomas said. "When the opportunity came, I texted him and said, ‘Welcome to the team. We are teammates now.' It is a great situation and we are going to work hard together."

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