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Colts Prospect Interviews: Daniel Thomas, safety, Auburn

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NCAA Football: Auburn at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

A popular series from last draft cycle is returning yet again at Stampede Blue. Last offseason, I interviewed over 40 prospects that could eventually be fits for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2019 NFL Draft. As a result, we were able to find out a lot about two Colts who went on to eventually be drafted by the team in Marvell Tell III and Khari Willis. This year I hope to interview even more prospects so you all can get an inside look at these player’s accomplishments and mindsets going into this next draft.

Our next prospect is safety Daniel Thomas from Auburn. We had a great conversation about growing into his role as a starter and a leader, if he can be that tight end eraser in the NFL, and how important it is to have great chemistry with your other starting safety.


Size:

5’10” 215 pounds

Combine Numbers:

40 Time: 4.51 sec / Bench: 24 reps / Vertical Jump: 37 inch / Broad Jump: 125 inch

Senior Stats:

74 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 1 pass deflection, and 1 forced fumble.

Fit with the Colts:

The Colts have a good young trio of safeties in Malik Hooker, Khari Willis, and George Odum. They do need to replace the void left by Clayton Geathers though and find a hard nosed special teamer to be the fourth safety on the roster. Thomas could be that guy as he is a consistent tackler with near elite athleticism. He also had experience starting on the bottom of the depth chart like he did at Auburn and could grow into a really good special teamer or even a spot starter in the NFL. Adding a high character, Team Captan type with great athleticism as the fourth safety sounds like a great plan to me.

Round Projection:

Mid-Late Day 3


Highlights:


Interview:

ZH: Early in your career at Auburn, you had to sit behind a lot of really good defensive backs in Carleton Davis, Joshua Holsey, Rudy Ford, and such. What did you take away from those years where you were more of a depth player?

DT: It really just taught me patience. I learned a lot from Josh and Rudy and Carleton. They were all students of the game and being able to learn from such a veteran group was really a blessing. Those guys just really taught me patience. I had to learn the system and learn to be versatile in the secondary. I played nickel, safety, dime so I was interchangeable playing those positions to get in as a Freshman. Learning from those guys really helped me and slowed the game down for me.


ZH: You transitioned to being a starter these last few years. How did it feel to be out there on gamedays as a Junior and Senior compared to when you had to sit as a younger player?

DT: It was a blessing all in the praise of God man. It was like a dream come true. Just being able to be out there with all those elite players they have on defense was just crazy. Both safeties on our defense, me and Jeremiah Dinson, made the calls and made sure everyone was on the same page so being able to give everybody those calls coming from where I came from, man it was just very fun. I wish I could go back and play for Auburn one more time man. I really enjoyed playing with my brothers.


ZH: You mentioned Jeremiah Dinson there and I’m curious what the relationship was like for you too on and off the field with him. How important is that chemistry between the two deep safeties who made the calls?

DT: He was like my brother. I actually just talked to him yesterday. We have a very close relationship and he actually lived next door to me in our dorm so we would be up breaking down film together and talking about who we were playing against. We were very smart safeties man and we were some great leaders also. We led by example on the field and off the field so he and I are like brothers and I know I can call him in any time of need and he knows he can call me too.


ZH: You killed the Combine this year as you tested as one of the best safeties in the class. Overall how was your Combine experience and do you think it helped your stock?

DT: It was just a blessing to be able to be around all the best safeties in the nation. Being able to see that I tested well— I was in like the top four or five of all safeties there— it just let me know that I’m right there with all of those guys in this class. It just let me know that I was one of the best safeties in the nation as well. You can see that on film and I’m a great athlete too. Overall I feel like the Combine really helped me.


ZH: You mentioned earlier that you played multiple positions early in your career. Going to this next level, where do you think is your best fit on a defense?

DT: I’m interchangeable and I’m versatile and I’ve shown that on tape but I feel like I would be best in the box. I don’t miss tackles close to the line of scrimmage so I feel like the closer I am to the box, the easier it is for me to have an impact and make tackles. I feel like I’m a strong safety at the next level.


ZH: There is an emphasis in the NFL now to have safeties who are tight end erasers who have the physicality and athleticism to shut down tight ends. How do you feel about being that kind of guy for an NFL team?

DT: I feel like I’m gonna get the job done. I’m a team first guy so whatever the team wants me to do, I’m gonna do it. I’m not a selfish guy and that is why my coach was able to just throw me out on the field and I was able to get the job done. I was always deep in high school for instance. I was always 20 yards deep so coming to Auburn I had to learn to be in the box and tackle. Coming to Auburn and playing nickel and dime and in the box was new to me but I was able to adapt and I can do that in the NFL too.


ZH: You are an excellent run defender as you rarely missed tackles on film. How important is it for a player with your skill set to be good in that run defense?

DT: I feel like it’s big because nowadays you gotta be able to do both. Now you have to be interchangeable and do everything and I honestly feel like I can do anything for the safety position. I feel like I do have a plus when it comes to the run game because I love tackling and I feel like that is one of my greatest strengths.


ZH: We talked earlier about how you were a leader for Auburn last year. What type of leader would you say you were for that team?

DT: I led by example but I was also vocal. I was a Team Captain and when we spoke, the whole team listened. I had a lot of respect for my coaches and my teammates as well so I led by example but I was also vocal. If you want people to follow you, you gotta first serve as a leader. You gotta be humble and serve others as a leader and when they see you reaching out to them, they’ll want to follow you.


ZH: What did it mean to you to be a Captain of such a talented defense in 2019?

DT: It meant a lot and it goes to show that everybody is watching and you never know who is watching you. Whether it is in the classroom or on the field or off it, everybody is watching you anywhere you go. To be voted on by my teammates meant a lot because where I came from as a low recruit to Auburn, I came in and worked my way to the top. I just took advantage of every opportunity I was given.


ZH: What is my teak getting if they spend a draft pick on you in this class?

DT: On the field, you are getting a hard hitting safety who is a ball hawk and always around the ball. I have a great motor, have a high IQ, and am a team first player. I’m a very spiritual guy off the field. I was always told to keep God first in everything I do so I would bring a lot of that into the locker room you know. I don’t try and force religion on anybody but I am a Christian. I don’t go around telling everybody about that but I just try to live my life being somebody who lives up to that in a good way. That is the type of person you are getting in your organization.