Since many here seem to have a concern over our offensive guard depth I have decided to make an effort to get to know Donald Thomas better. By doing so I hope to put some ease into the nervousness associated with our guard depth as it is my impression that he is a quality back up and possible future starter. I could be wrong, as I have little to go on but gut feel regarding this. Therefore this will be as educational and informative for me as it is for anyone else here.
High School Notes
High school did not have a football team and was not allowed to play for a nearby school. Played basketball, baseball, and soccer.
Donald entered Uconn without the intention of ever playing football. Was convinced by friend Danny Lansanah, a linebacker on the Uconn football team, to try out. He made it as a walk on and eventually earned a full scholarship. Named All Big East in 2007.
With the Dolphins
Donald was promoted to the starting right guard on the 3rd day of training camp.Unfortunately he suffered a Lisfranc fracture in his foot in his first game and was placed on injured reserve on September 9th 2008, two days after his NFL debut.
He was later waived by the Dolphins and signed with the Lions as a free agent.
Quotes from his pre draft scouting reports
Thomas is a pretty raw prospect, but he's taken advantage of pre-draft auditions to show off great potential. He enrolled at UConn in 2003, but did not join the football team until the next year, and didn't see any action until the next season, when the majority of his action came on special teams. Thomas finally stepped into the starting lineup in 2006, but his only year as a full-time starter came in 2007 and it was a pretty good one, as he started all 13 games at right guard, and was a first-team All-Big East member. He rode the momentum of his senior season to impressive performances at the Hula Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game and kept it up at the combine, where he ran one of the fastest 40 times there and posted 28 bench press reps. With his mix of quickness and strength and how well he's done in limited experience, Thomas is a very intriguing prospect and could be a great value pick in the third or fourth round for a team who uses a zone-blocking scheme. He does, however, have a minor off-field concern, as he was arrested for assault in 2006. However, if that's behind him and he makes use of his aggression on the field and not off of it, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him starting in a few seasons.
Positives: Well-built athlete. ... Muscular build rarely seen on an offensive lineman. ... Explosive at the point of contact and can stun defenders with his initial jolt. ... Good initial quickness and can get out and block at the second level. ... Ascending prospect who stepped up his level of play as a senior.
Negatives: Well-built upper body, but lacks lower body strength at this time. ... Lacks the leg drive to generate consistent movement as a drive blocker and has only marginal anchor in pass protection. ... Only developed into a standout as a senior, so there are questions about his motivation once he gets an NFL paycheck. ... Has some off-field issues scouts will need to investigate.
"That's the thing you'll never have to worry about with Donald Thomas," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "One of the reasons why he was so successful here and landed in the situation he did with the Dolphins is because he was a natural when it came to doing the things he needed to do to be the best. You can be sure he'll do everything he can to get himself ready to go again."
The second week of training camp began with Donald Thomas getting promoted to working with the second team at right guard despite missing most of the first week of camp. On Tuesday, Donald's rise continued as he spent most of the day taking the first-team reps, replacing Shawn Murphy. More importantly, he looked like he belonged there.
In his blog, Omar Kelly wrote that Thomas "looks like an absolute monster" out there and declares that "there's no competition if he's healthy." Of course, that's the million dollar question regarding Donald Thomas. Is he healthy right now and can he remain healthy throughout the course of a 16 game season?
Thomas tried out for several teams prior to signing with the Lions. Including the Colts, Eagles, Giants, Ravens, Steelers and Bengals. It is not known if any of them made him an offer on a contract and he chose to play for the Lions or if they were simply the first team to offer him. Either way, there definitely was a lot of interest from some very good NFL teams, teams who are known for developing all pro offensive linemen.
It should also be noted that Donald has added some weight to his frame and currently checks in at 310 lbs. Couple that with two years of NFL trainers to help out his lower body strength and I think he passes the eyeball test on physicality for the NFL game.
It should also be noted here that the questions regarding his work ethic off the field have all been irrefutably answered. He is a guy who has a reputation as a hard worker in the weight room and film room. On top of that he is said to be a pretty quick study. Keeping his nose clean after one run in with the law is also another feather in his cap.
From everything I have read, seen, and gathered on the guy I am left with the impression that we are just fine on our guard depth this coming season. Quite frankly I do not know who gave this guy a knock on his motivation, but it seems pretty clear to me that was a bogus wrap. The guy never played a snap of football before he was a walk on in college, worked his way into starting and a scholarship, worked his way to All Big East, worked his way into the NFL Draft based on his performance in game like the East West Shrine game, and then worked his way into being a 3rd day starter with the Dolphins in training camp..... I am not betting against this guy to work his way back from his foot injury. Donald has the kind of storied past that you watch on NFL Films pieces with guys like James Harrison and John Randle. Maybe he will not ever achieve the level of greatness those guys did, but the potential is certainly there.