The Pittsburgh Steelers had Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas in for a pre draft visit on Thursday, and once again, our scouting friend Dave-Te\’ Thomas was kind enough to give us his detailed scouting report profile on him, which you can read below. Make sure to listen to the latest episode of the podcast as we had Thomas on for nearly a full hour talking about the Steelers draft and prospects.
Strong Safety / Free Safety
Fresno State University Bulldogs
Bakersfield High School
It’s a good thing that Thomas has long arms and is a strong guy, because he will need them to carry home all the postseason honors he has received of late. Usually, it is players from the bigger powerhouse major college conferences that garner all the awards at the end of the season. Certainly not a player from the Mountain West Conference and especially not one from the Fresno State program would be able to overcome those odds and win a few for his old alma mater, right?
Well, Thomas is used to proving those doubters wrong. No college recruiter even game him a thought, despite a great career at Bakersfield High School. Upon graduating, he would spend the 2007 looking for a school that would let him play, ending up at Fresno State a year later after rejections from Arizona State, Nevada, Washington and Washington State. He red-shirted during the 2008 season after seeing brief action vs. San Jose State and then spent the 2009 campaign in a reserve role before emerging.
At Bakersfield High School, Thomas was the consummate team player for head coach Paul Golla. As a junior, he began the year as a wide receiver, but was pressed into action at quarterback, tailback and safety before the year concluded with the Drillers marching to a 12-2 record and winning the Southeast Yosemite League title and finishing 12th overall in the state polls.
That year, Thomas rushed for 1,104 yards on 150 carries (7.36 ypc) and 19 touchdowns, adding 418 yards and four scores on fifteen receptions. He completed 28-of-57 passes (49.1%) for 295 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, he intercepted a pass, returned a fumble 80 yards for a score vs. Buchanan and posted 78 tackles with five interceptions, finishing with 24 total touchdowns and 144 points, earning All-League honors in both 2006 and 2007.
As a senior, Thomas was limited to six games, missing the second half of the 2007 schedule due to injuries, perhaps causing recruiters to shy away. He received just a two-star rating from Scout.com, even though he had piled up 762 yards and nine touchdowns on 110 carries (6.93 ypc), caught three balls for 26 yards and a score, along with hitting on 32-of-65 passes for 402 yards and three touchdowns. As a safety, he made 21 tackles and had two interceptions before he was sidelined.
As a key reserve in the secondary for Fresno State in 2009, the strong safety recorded 30 tackles and returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown. He started eleven games at free safety in 2010, finishing fifth on the team with 64 tackles. He also caused two fumbles, broke up nine passes and intercepted three more.
Things were looking good for Thomas through 2011 spring and fall camps, but three days before the season opener, he suffered a left leg fracture and a broken ankle in a non-contact drill. His season was over before it began, as some were even calling it a career-threatening injury.
Knowing his work ethic, the staff would regularly see Thomas “burning the midnight oil” in his grueling rehabilitation program. But the coaches figured that if was ever able to contribute to the program again, it would be a bonus. Never doubt a Thomas. I know, as I am one. The safety would be a topic of conversation among NFL scouts in March, 2012 at the Bulldogs\’ pro day.
Much to even his own amazement, Thomas worked his way back from surgery in time to participate on a limited basis in spring practice. Reportedly as healthy as he was before the injury, he actually appeared stronger and quicker. “At the start of spring I was pretty hesitant, pretty nervous about my ankle and my injury, but toward the end I felt myself getting better and through the summer workouts it\’s getting a lot better, and I feel like my old self again,” Thomas told the Fresno Bee.
Making up for his lost season, Thomas had a sensational senior season, becoming the first player in school history to be a unanimous All-American selection in 2012. He was also a Thorpe Award finalist, All-MWC first-team selection and named the Mountain West Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
The 2012 season would be his college “final curtain” but will likely launch a fruitful NFL career. Starting all thirteen games, the now solid 215-pound free safety led the team with 84 tackles and twelve stops behind the line of scrimmage that included four sacks. He caused four fumbles, recovered another and deflected five passes. He led the nation and set the conference season-record with eight interceptions, the most by a Bulldog in 27 years. He also ran three of his pass thefts back for touchdowns.
In 39 games at Fresno State, Thomas started 24 contests at free safety, performing in a reserve role at strong safety in the other fifteen games…Recorded 178 tackles *125 solos) with four sacks for minus 24 yards and seventeen stops for losses totaling 55 yards, as he recovered one fumble and caused six others…Deflected fifteen passes and had thirteen interceptions for 214 yards and four touchdowns…Among active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision talent, his four scoring returns are tied with Ricardo Allen of Purdue, Jermaine Robinson of Toledo, A.J. Klein of Iowa State and Trey Wilson of Vanderbilt for the national title…His thirteen pass thefts also ran tied for seventh and his 214 return yards placed 12th among the active players…Only Eric Weddle of Utah (18; 2003-06), Gabriel Fulbright of New Mexico (14; 2002-05) and Kevin Thomas of Nevada-Las Vegas (14; 1999-2001) have more interceptions that Thomas in Mountain West Conference history…His 214 return yards rank second in MWC annals, topped by Kevin Thomas’ record of 327 yards…His four interception returns for touchdowns tied Kevin Thomas and Andre Dyson of Utah (1999-2000) for the conference all-time record and broke the old Fresno State all-time record of three scoring runbacks by Richard Marshall (2003-05).
Thomas made a triumphant return to the gridiron, as he became the first player in Fresno State history to be an unanimous All-American first-team selection, receiving that honor from The NFL Draft Report, American Football Coaches Association, Associated Press, Football Writers Association, Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation (first Bulldog ever named to a Walter Camp first-team)…Was one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award that goes to the top defensive back in the nation…received the College Football Performance Awards Defensive Back Trophy…Named All-Mountain West Conference first-team and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year…Started all thirteen games, not only leading the team with 84 tackles (64 solos), but became the first defensive back to lead the Bulldogs, as he posted twelve stops for losses of 44 yards that included four sacks for minus 24 yards…His eight interceptions led the nation and set a new league record, topping the previous mark of seven thefts by Larry Parker of San Diego State (2011), Anthony Wright of Air Force (2009) and Eric Weddle of Utah (2006)…Gained 98 yards via those pass thefts, including three touchdowns, as those scores established a new school season-record and tied the MWC annual mark…Deflected five other passes as he recovered one fumble and caused six others…His nine total take-aways on the year (eight interceptions, one fumble recovery) are tied for the most from any one player in the FBS…Recorded a then-career-high nine tackles at Oregon, as he also forced a fumble on his first career sack and also recovered a fumble vs. the Ducks…Tied the school and Mountain West records with three interceptions vs. Colorado in a 69-14 victory, as he returned two of his three picks vs. the Buffs for touchdowns, setting a new school record for pick-sixes in a game and tying the MWC record, as he was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week and the Jim Thorpe Award Defensive Back of the Week after his performance vs. the Buffs. He also earned Player of the Day honors from ESPN\’s College Football, Defensive Player of the Week accolades from CBS Inside College Football and CFPA National Defensive Performer and Defensive Back of the Week honors after the CU game…Produced his first double-digit tackle game at Tulsa, when he had 10 tackles, two pass breakups and one tackle for a loss…Intercepted two passes in a win over San Diego State, which was the third multi-interception game of his career and his second of the season…Posted eight tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one interception in a 28-7 win at Colorado State and was named the MWC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season after the CSU victory…Had nine tackles and one tackle for a loss at Boise State…Intercepted his seventh pass of the season vs. Wyoming and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown, as he set a new school record and tied the Mountain West record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a season with that score vs. Wyoming. He also forced his third fumble of the season vs. the Cowboys…Set a new Mountain West record when he intercepted his eighth pass of the season at Nevada, when he also made new career-highs in tackles (12) and tackles for a loss (2.5)…Added nine tackles, a sack and one forced fumble in the win over Air Force to end the regular season.
Thomas suffered a broken bone in his left leg (fibula) and a dislocated ankle, tearing ligaments in a non-contact drill three days before the season opener, causing him to miss the entire season.
Thomas started eleven games after moving to free safety, ranking sixth on the squad with 64 tackles (39 solos), making 3.5 stops for losses of 9 yards…Caused two fumbles, batted away nine passes and intercepted three others for 90 yards in returns…Had one pass theft in each of the Mississippi, San Jose State and Boise State games…Had season-bests of nine tackles in each of the Cal Poly and Utah State contests…Returned an interception 51 yards vs. San Jose State and had a 39-yard return on a pick at Ole Miss.
The red-shirt freshman played behind Moses Harris at strong safety, appearing in thirteen games, as he recorded 30 tackles (22 solos) with 1.5 stops-for-loss, a pass deflection and two interceptions for 26 yards in returns, including a 21-yarder for a touchdown in a win over Illinois in the regular season finale…Had a season-high eight tackles at Hawaii…Made seven tackles in the New Mexico Bowl vs. Wyoming.
Thomas red-shirted as a freshman, seeing brief action vs. San Jose State.
2010 Season…Sat out the New Mexico State (10/16) clash (ankle).
2011 Season…Thomas did not play the entire season after suffering a left fibula fracture, dislocated left ankle and tore ligaments in left ankle during non-contact drill three days before the 2011 opener.
4.53 in the 40-yard dash…1.58 10-yard dash…2.58 20-yard dash…4.10 20-yard shuttle…
6.94 three-cone drill…35-inch vertical jump…10’2” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 14 times…30 ¼-inch arm length…9 ¼-inch hands…74 3/8-inch wingspan.
Thomas attended Bakersfield (Cal.) High School, playing football for head coach Paul Golla…As a junior, he began the year as a wide receiver, but was pressed into action at quarterback, tailback and safety before the year concluded with the Drillers marching to a 12-2 record and winning the Southeast Yosemite League title and finishing 12th overall in the state polls…That year, Thomas rushed for 1,104 yards on 150 carries (7.36 ypc) and 19 touchdowns, adding 418 yards and four scores on fifteen receptions…Completed 28-of-57 passes (49.1%) for 295 yards and three touchdowns…On defense, he intercepted a pass, returned a fumble 80 yards for a score vs. Buchanan and posted 78 tackles with five interceptions, finishing with 24 total touchdowns and 144 points, earning All-League honors in both 2006 and 2007…As a senior, Thomas was limited to six games, missing the second half of the 2007 schedule due to injuries…Received just a two-star rating from Scout.com, even though he had piled up 762 yards and nine touchdowns on 110 carries (6.93 ypc), caught three balls for 26 yards and a score, along with hitting on 32-of-65 passes for 402 yards and three touchdowns…As a safety, he made 21 tackles and had two interceptions before he was sidelined.
Criminology major…Son of Janice Venus…Born on 3/01/89…Resides in Bakersfield, California.