Steelers 2013 Fourth Round Draft Pick – Syracuse S Shamarko Thomas

The Pittsburgh Steelers have selected Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas with their fourth round pick of the 2013 NFL draft. The Steelers traded their No. 3 pick in \’14 for the 111st pick in this draft.

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SHAMARKO LANELL THOMAS

Strong Safety

Syracuse University Orange

#21

5:08.7-217

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Ocean Lakes High School

OVERVIEW

With his squat frame and thick build, Thomas looks more like a London Fletcher-type of linebacker than your typical strong safety. That is, until you put a stopwatch on a player who is blessed with 4.42-second 40-yard dash quickness. He can rival Superman with his 40 ½-inch vertical jump and 11’1” broad jump. Step into the weight room with the Orange senior and he will bench press 225 pounds 28 times.

If you watch game film on Thomas, you might not understand why opposing offensive coordinators did not stay away from his territory often. Each year, he kept pilling on more and more tackles, from 41 as a freshman, 67 in each of his sophomore and junior years, to 88 in his final season.

Along the way, he took down twenty ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage, a sign that he can impact vs. a running game. He also has a “nose” for the ball, recovering three fumbles after colliding with those running backs. Even though he is not asked to blitz much, two of his four career sacks caused fumbles and all three of his QB pressures caused interceptions.

Mature beyond the numbers on his birth certificate, Thomas’ main goal in getting to the National Football League as an early round draft pick is to secure a bright future for his family. The last few years have shown the character and make-up of a player who has had to experience his own real-life version of the former Fox Network show, “Party of Five.”

As a member of the Syracuse Orange, he not only faced pressure to be a defensive leader, but did so while pursuing a life-changing promise. At age 21, he\’s already endured more suffering than anyone his age should.

At Ocean Lakes High School, where he was a teammate of current Syracuse defensive end Brandon Sharpe, Thomas was a two-sport standout, excelling in track and football. He led the team with 77 tackles and five interceptions as a junior, but there were issues at home with his parents that would soon begin to impact his own life.

As a senior, Thomas was named All-State, All-Region and All-Tidewater first-team, as the two-time All-District selection would go on to set school records in career tackles, interceptions and defensive touchdowns. In his final campaign, he recorded a team-high 102 tackles, six interceptions, eleven pass deflections and one blocked field goal as a team captain, leading the squad to a 12-1 record on the way to garnering squad defensive MVP honors.

Ocean Lakes head coach Chris Scott recalls a special moment he experienced with Thomas: “My first year as head football coach, I took him to a Nike National camp and they had the medicine ball throw where you get on your knees and throw it. They had it measured off where they thought people would throw it and he threw it outside the allotted area by 10 or 15 feet. And the guy who was running the event said, ‘That’s crazy,’ because the biggest lineman who was 6-foot-5 and 300 some odd pounds didn’t even get half the distance that he did.”

That just shows you at that point in time the freakiness of what Tomas is capable of doing. “You talk about freakish deals, he ran two sub-4.3 40s for NFL scouts recently. And one of them made him run it again and he ran 4.259,” Scott said of his former athlete who could be selected in the early rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft.

In track, Thomas earned All-State honors competing in the 100-meter dash and as the anchor of the 4 x 100 relay that placed seventh in Virginia. He concluded his gridiron prep career by playing for the United States team that won the 2009 IFAF Junior World Championship.

But, unknown to most during his high school days, his father had walked out on the family. Thomas watched his mother fight to keep the family afloat. In addition to raising six kids, she attended dental school and worked at McDonald\’s. Thomas called her his best friend and his source of inspiration.

“One day, she just told me, \’Shamarko, you wanna be great, you gotta work harder than everybody. You gotta be better than all the competition,\'” Thomas said. “Her favorite quote was \’work hard until your hands and your feet fall off.\'”

After his banner freshman season at Syracuse, Thomas had earned the starting strong safety position during 2010 spring camp. He was preparing to return to school for August drills, but then tragedy struck. Less than two months before the season, he heard the life-altering news: The man who pushed him to gridiron greatness was gone. Thomas\’ father, Abdul Shabazz, died in a motorcycle accident in North Carolina.

Shabazz had just picked up a new part for his motorcycle and was returning home when a 20-year-old driver lost control of the wheel, swerved out of his lane and crashed into him. Shabazz was wearing a helmet, but died on impact. He never made it to the hospital. He was pronounced dead on July 10, 2010.

Shabazz had always expected the most out of Thomas, and although he left the family shortly after Thomas\’ freshman year of high school, the two had begun to patch up their relationship. Thomas recalled an instance when he was age eleven, when his father pushed him to perfection. “I was playing football and I scored four touchdowns,” Thomas said. “My dad came up to me, and he was like, \’That\’s all you got? You can be better than that.\'”

Shabazz was gone, but things were about to get even worse. Thomas\’ mother, Ebeth Shabazz, passed away just nine months later. The player and his mother spoke frequently while he was performing at Syracuse during his sophomore season, but one phone conversation in April 2011 sticks out. At the time, Thomas thought it was just another talk. But what his mother said ultimately changed his life forever.

“She was like, \’If anything ever happens to me, I just want you to know you\’re my chosen one. I want you to promise me that you are going to try your hardest and your best to make it,\'” Thomas said. “I told my mom I\’m going to make it and take care of my whole family.”

One day later, on April 18th, Thomas received a voicemail from his younger brother. His mother was dead. She went to bed early to prepare for a trip to Chicago to visit her ailing grandmother, but she never woke up. She died from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the myocardium becomes too thick, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. She had unknowingly battled the condition for years; it has few symptoms and often goes undiagnosed.

When Thomas heard the news, he sobbed so violently that his friend in the upstairs apartment rushed to console him. Football, once his singular focus, took a distant back seat. Thomas was forced to grow up, to transform from a carefree teenager into a man.

He could have easily crumbled. Instead, he sought out his grandmother and his faith.

“When my momma passed, I\’m like, \’God is punishing me again,\’ but I remember my grandma always said, \’Don\’t ever say God is punishing you. He\’s rewarding you,\'” Thomas said. “He\’s making you sacrifice. God don\’t put you through what you can\’t handle.\'”

Thomas would now become a parental figure for his five younger siblings. With the loss of his parents, he was forced to shoulder one of life\’s greatest responsibilities. With five younger siblings (four brothers, one sister) ages 8 to 17, he had to become a de facto parent overnight.

Thomas headed to Virginia just hours after learning of his mother\’s death. He stayed with his family for nearly three weeks before returning to Syracuse for the final week of classes. His advisor helped him cram before finals. But Thomas\’ main concern was still his family in Virginia. “How am I going to take care of my family when I\’m only 20?” Thomas asked. “I gotta be the support. All that pressure is put on me.”

He matured. Following his parents\’ deaths, he was able to step up as the anchor of his family. Thomas speaks with his siblings every evening, taking the time out even after a tough practice or a frustrating loss. He knows he must continue to persevere; he\’s all his family has. That resilience extends to the football field — another area where he uses his family as motivation.

“It gives me goose bumps even just to talk about it and to think about how far he has come,” said Leslie Allard, his former guidance counselor at Ocean Lakes High School. “It\’s just amazing because he has had every reason in the world to quit and he hasn\’t.”

Thomas returned to school and started ten games in 2011. He had suffered a concussion in preseason practice and then missed the Rutgers and Toledo contests due to a lower body injury, finishing third on the team with 67 tackles, three stops for loss and a trio of quarterback pressures. Throughout the year, his parents never strayed far from his thoughts.

Thomas had a promise to fulfill. He told his mother he would become successful in order to provide for his siblings. Now he is determined to make that a reality. “I do this for my family,” he said. “I don\’t only want to be in the NFL because of all the money. I want to be in the NFL because it\’s my goal to make my parents smile down on me. I really take that to heart.”

Even on game day, Thomas finds time for his parents. Following warmups last season, he would go to the corner of the field and take a knee by himself. He looked at a picture of his mother and father and listened to “After While” by Deitrick Haddon. The chorus contains the following lyrics: I still hear your voice/I still feel your touch/And when I close my eyes/I can see your smile.

Thomas continued that emotional ritual throughout his senior season. “I think about how [my parents] would like me to be great and take care of my family,” he said. “I take all that in and just cry, and then I\’ll be ready to play.” In 2012, he continued to emerge as a tireless worker.

On weekdays, Thomas would wake up and go to see Syracuse strength and conditioning coach William Hicks to complete a torture workout called “15 Minutes of Fury.” When he finished, he would go to the team\’s practice field and run defensive back drills. On weekends, it didn\’t stop. Thomas, fellow senior Brandon Sharpe and sophomore Jaston George would run hills while pushing tires and sleds. They even push cars to improve their explosiveness.

“Sometimes it got to the point where I was about to tell him, \’Shamarko, you have to rest your body because if you don\’t rest your body you could get hurt,\'” said Phillip Thomas (no relation), a former three-year teammate in the secondary. “It doesn\’t get to him because he got a job. He knows he has to support his family, so he works hard.”

All that hard work seems to have paid off. The All-Big East Conference first-team and All-American third-team choice led the team with 88 tackles as a senior, making 3.5 of his hits behind the line of scrimmage. He also had a pair of interceptions. He also received an invitation to play in the 2013 Senior Bowl, another opportunity to better support his family with a solid performance.

Thomas followed that with a stellar performance at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. Still, he feels he has a lot of work to do before entering the pro ranks. “I need to make big plays at the right times,” said Thomas, “and I feel like I haven\’t done that yet because of the injuries and all my other setbacks.”

No matter what happens this much is clear: The worst is over. And with all that Thomas has been through, graduating and making an NFL roster spot are just the next steps in his already remarkable journey.

CAREER NOTES

Thomas started 39-of-48 games at strong safety for Syracuse, posting 263 tackles (177 solos) with four sacks for minus 35 yards and 16.5 stops for losses of 55 yards…Gained 27 yards on two interception returns and deflected four other tosses…Caused four fumbles and recovered three others.

2012 SEASON

Thomas was named All-American third-team by The NFL Draft Report and the team co-captain was a consensus All-Big East Conference first-team selection, in addition to earning Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I All-Star recognition…Started all thirteen games, as he led the team with a career-high 88 tackles (62 solos), adding a 6-yard sack and 3.5 stops for losses of 9 yards…Ranked third in the league with three forced fumbles and had one fumble recovery…Gained 27 yards on the first two interceptions for his career…In the Northwestern clash, he tallied two tackles, including a sack for a loss of six yards, and forced a fumble…Recorded seven tackles, including six solo and one tackle for a loss of one yard, and recorded his first career interception vs. Southern California… Notched six tackles, including two solo vs. Stony Brook…At Minnesota, he registered a season-high nine tackles, including six solo tackles and then tied his season-high nine tackles which included seven solo tackles and one for a loss of one yard vs. Pittsburgh… At Rutgers, he tallied six tackles, including two solo and then earned a spot on the Big East Weekly Honor Roll for his effort vs. Connecticut, which included four solo tackles, one forced fumble, and one interception, which he returned 27 yards…At South Florida, he notched a team-high nine tackles, including six solo, and recovered a fumble that set up a touchdown…At Cincinnati, he again earned spot on the Big East Weekly Honor Roll for his career-high 14 tackles, including 10 solo, and forced a fumble…Had six solo tackles vs. Louisville and at Missouri, the safety recorded six tackles, including four solo, followed by a Temple contest where he posted six tackles, including five solo…At the New Era Pin-stripe Bowl vs. West Virginia, he notched four tackles, including two solo and 0.5 for a loss of one yard.

2011 SEASON

Thomas was named All-Big East second-team by The NFL Draft Report, as he ranked third on the squad with 67 tackles (47 solos) in ten starting assignments, adding three stops for losses of five yards, three pressures and a pass deflection, but missed the Rutgers and Toledo contests due to a knee sprain and lower leg injury suffered in the third quarter of the Southern California clash that kept him out of the rest of that contest…In the Wake Forest tilt, he had 10 tackles, including five solo…Collected six tackles, including five solo and one for a loss of one yard vs. Rhode Island… At USC, he made seven tackles with four solo stops before exiting in the third quarter with a leg injury…At Tulane, he recorded four tackles and had one pass break up…Added five tackles, including four vs. West Virginia and totaled eight tackles, including six solo vs. Syracuse…At Connecticut, he made seven tackles, including four solo, posting posted six tackles, including four solo in the South Florida contest and made six tackles, including five solo and one for a two-yard loss vs. Cincinnati…At Pittsburgh, he was in on eight tackles, including seven solo.

2010 SEASON

Thomas started nine of the thirteen games he appeared in at strong safety…Ranked fourth on the team with 67 tackles (38 solos) that included two sacks for minus 19 yards and 3.5 stops for losses of 21 yards…Deflected three passes and advanced a fumble recovery three yards.

2009 SEASON

A member of ESPN.com’s All-Big East Conference freshman team, Thomas played in twelve games, starting seven contests – vs. Louisville, Rytgers and Connecticut as a strong safety; vs. Maine at right cornerback; and vs. West Virginia, Akron and Cincinnati at left outside linebacker…Registered 41 tackles (30 solos), a 10-yard dasck and 6.5 stops for losses of 20 yards…Also caused and recovered a fumble.

INJURY REPORT

2011 Season…Durability 3 Missed time in 2011 preseason camp after suffering a concussion in practice…Sat out the Rutgers and Toledo games after he left the Southern California contest in the third quarter with a knee/lower leg contusion.

2012 Season…Thomas was knocked unconscious after a vicious collision with a Pittsburgh (10/05) ball carrier and missed the rest of the game.

AGILITY TESTS

4.42 in the 40-yard dash…1.52 10-yard dash…2.49 20-yard dash…4.26 20-yard shuttle…

6.84 three-cone drill…40 ½-inch vertical jump…11’1” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times…31 ¾-inch arm length…9 1/8-inch hands…74 ½-inch wingspan.

HIGH SCHOOL

Thomas attended Ocean Lakes (Virginia Beach, Va.) High School, playing football for head coach Chris Scott…Was a teammate of current Syracuse defensive end Brandon Sharpe… Was a two-sport standout, excelling in track and football…Led the team with 77 tackles and five interceptions as a junior…As a senior, Thomas was named All-State, All-Region and All-Tidewater first-team, as the two-time All-District selection would go on to set school records in career tackles, interceptions and defensive touchdowns…In his final campaign, he recorded a team-high 102 tackles, six interceptions, eleven pass deflections and one blocked field goal as a team captain, leading the squad to a 12-1 record on the way to garnering squad defensive MVP honors…Concluded his gridiron prep career by playing for the United States team that won the 2009 IFAF Junior World Championship…

In track, Thomas earned All-State honors competing in the 100-meter dash and as the anchor of the 4 x 100 relay that placed seventh in Virginia.

PERSONAL

Child and Family Studies major, enrolled in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics…Son of the late Ebeth and Abdul Shabazz…Has four brothers and one sister he now cares for since his parents’ deaths…Born Shamarko Lanell Thomas in February, 1991…Resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • LouPGH

    Love this pick. Had him going to them in the 3rd Round.

  • steeltown

    Nice pick, very nice pick…hard hitter!

  • Sylky_Mcnasty

    Ughh Seriously Landry Jones….with Khaseem Green, Jessie WIlliams and QUinton Patton there…dislike the second 4th round pick a little just because it doesnt impact us this year with Gradkoski here. Hope he pans out though as that would be really be a great turn. Loved the trade for Sharko. But missed an opportunity for help this year.

  • dgh57

    Yes, we got my man! They had me worried there for a while! Between Bell & S. Thomas I believe “smashmouth football is back in town” !!!!!!!

  • mokhkw

    Like the pick, don’t like giving up a 3rd next year, especially when we take a back-up QB with our 4th this year. Couldn’t we have given up a 6th or 7th this year instead?

  • Stephen Dale

    fast or not, he is only 5’8″ and pro teams will throw over the top of him. I doubt he is big enough to handle pro TE’s either. Does anybody think he is as good as Bob Sanders ( also a midget DB with Indy) ?????

  • David Edward

    Shamarko is the best pick so far. Giving up a 3 next year is ok.

  • steeltown

    negative nancy.. he’s short,yes..but he’s a beast and fast (4.42)

  • JT

    I’m very happy we got Sham. But go ‘Phins. Please!

  • Clint Martin

    AND LANDRY JONES YES!!

  • JT

    I would have preferred Dysert personally, but he was more of a project. But we all need to accept that a backup QB is only going to get more important as Ben gets older. I think Sham is a great value in the 3rd, personally.

  • Sylky_Mcnasty

    Yea but it we will still most likely have a third rounder next year. Remember we had three players leave that will be starters on their new teams. We could really get a few compensatory picks next year.

  • steeltown

    I like it… I was high fivin’ people here, like im in a draft room or something, ha!

  • SOnMyChest

    It was an easy 3rd to give up considering the sure fire 3rd round compensatory selection we will receive for Mike Wallace next year!!!! Not to mention the selection we will receive for Keenan Lewis’ contract

  • hergieburbur

    I’ve been on record as preferring P Thomas, but Shark isn’t far behind. I like it. Like the Landry Jones pick too, though not so sure about picking a QB so early.

  • hergieburbur

    We’ll probably get a 3 back for Wallace anyway

  • LouPGH

    The dude has a 40 1/2″ vertical. He can get up. I’m convinced your a troll.

  • Sylky_Mcnasty

    and maybe even a 7th rounder for ol Bug Eyes if he plays well in AZ.

  • JT

    I’m okay with it, only because they already filled the glaring needs. It would have been nice to have maybe gotten Thomas AND Shark. But I’m not going to worry about getting a good backup QB as opposed to a backup OL or DL. Plus, I like not giving up picks this year.

  • hergieburbur

    Yeah, it’s not a major concern and Jones is a nice fit. Now if we get Mauti later, I’ll be happy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wilkes420 Christopher Wilkes

    Yep, I love this pick!!!

  • WilliamSekinger

    Considering the likely comp picks they will get next year because of FA losses of Mike Wallace and Mendy, this was a fantastic decision.

    Edit: and also Lewis

  • JT

    There was no situation where they took Jessie Williams though. Don’t need another pick that high at NT.

  • Sylky_Mcnasty

    For sure. And hes falling I mean if hes there in the 6th I think there no way we can bypass him. I mean that would be a nice pickup and allow us to let Steve be more of a hybrid linemen.

  • JohnnyV1

    Was hoping (more like praying) that they’d draft this kid. Explosive, playing guy who is also a guy that’s gone through so much but didn’t give up. Talent and heart equals winner.

  • John Hinton

    But Phillip Thomas was right there for us to take. He was a better option with the size we need to match up with the bigger receivers we face. If P Thomas was not on the board at that time, I would have been ok with it. I have to live with it now. Go Steelers!

  • dgh57

    After a while players will be a little timid about going over the middle when they know Shamarko is back there because of his bone jarring tackles! As for Bob Sanders he played with recklessness, Thomas doesn’t.

  • Keith Jemison

    Awesome pick,he was tops all through high school. At the “Cuse” he stood out amongst the best ! I live around the corner from them here in Virginia Beach . Great guy and real bruiser…

  • steeltown

    Yep

  • http://www.facebook.com/grazy8 Nate Grey

    He ran a 4.25. Actually a sub 4.3 twice

  • steeltown

    Right, ha!.. I think his official combine was 4.42, but whatever dude is fast

  • LucasY59

    Phillip Thomas was available when they picked Landry Jones and they still didn’t take him (that was the real mistake)

  • TsarPepe

    the kind of tackles NFL is working on eliminating from the game… just saying…

  • SteelerDave

    Excellent, excellent pick. Welcome to the Black and Gold Shamarko!

  • dgh57

    I would’ve broke open the Champagne and celebrated had I had some handy!

  • dgh57

    As long as he doesn’t lead with his helmet he’ll be fine. Far as I know he has no problem with that.

  • LouPGH

    I agree with all of that. I don’t know if P. Thomas could play FS; seems like with his ball hawk tendencies he could make the transition… We needed to get a developmental QB at some point though. With Ben getting older you never know if the next game could be his last.

  • Nolrog

    The 3 they gave up, IMO, will be in the mid-teens (around where they drafted this year, so around 15, 17) and the one they will receive will be after 32. Big difference.

  • Douglas Andrews

    he ran a 4.3 while falling at the end I was more impressed with the fall…looks like a stud should help us immediately

  • hergieburbur

    He’s played both, but primarily SS.

  • TsarPepe

    He must have had a 2nd-rd grade on the Steelers board if they were willing to part with a 3rd rounder in 2014.

  • Mike.H

    short don’t mean squat, Stephen W.D. Do you remember when we played Indy, Sander kept blowing up plays in Steelers’ back field. He’s a Tazmanian Devil who dives at opponent’s thighs and knees as you flip for a 3 yd loss!

  • walter mason

    giving up a 3rd round pic is kinda stiff.

  • Jazz

    I understand your reasoning; but think about it, at some point the Steelers had to draft a QB that could possibly come in and play 2 or 3 games in the event #7 gets hurt. Lets face it, #7 is hard headed, he consistently tries to make something happen even when it’s obvious nothing is there, holding onto the ball too often. As a result, he has sustained injuries the past two seasons, especially when the team has been in contention to make a run at the playoffs. When #7 gets hurt, the team has faltered enormously, ending the season due mostly to his own fault. There is nothing wrong with throwing the football away, or simply going to the ground lessening the chance for a serious injury. With this pick, it’s possible the team can sustain the three weeks #7 seems to always miss during the season, stay in contention for the Division Title as well. I like this pick; this sends a message to #7 that the Steelers are preparing to move on in the event he suffers another key injury during the season.

  • kakello34

    This guy is built like a brick shithouse

  • http://twitter.com/softdrums Shea Fahr

    Mini James Harrison playing safety but much faster and obviously younger. GREAT PICK!! A mature young Man as well.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Try telling that to Shanahan, the WR for Pitt. Also Robert Wood whom shamarko played one on one for whole game. They struggled.

    Only way shamarko will be truly exposed is in zone coverage.