PewterReport.com is covering all of the East West Shrine practices this week from St. Petersburg, and will provide a daily player spotlight article.
On Wednesday at the East Team practice, we caught up with Michigan safety Dymonte Thomas. The 6-foot-2 prospect made his presence felt during the scrimmage portion, showing enough speed to keep up with the likes of slot receiver Kermit Whitfield and others. It provided a flash of the progression the young player has demonstrated throughout college.
During his four years at Michigan, Thomas saw his playing time increase by three games each season and the versatile safety came into his own by senior year in the Wolverine’s stacked defense. Playing alongside future first-rounders Jabril Peppers and Chris Wormley, Thomas flew somewhat under the radar, but his stats show potential at the next level.
With 45 tackles in 2016, up from 17 the previous season, and nine pass deflections with one interception, Thomas proved to play an integral role on the nation’s No. 1 ranked defense. He started all 13 games this past season, earning an All-Big 10 honorable mention (coaches and media) and becoming a three-year letterman to cap off his collegiate career.
Below is the transcript of PewterReport.com’s interview with Thomas. We tackled a number of topics, including the aspects of his game he hopes to improve, his maturation process at Michigan and his coachability as he prepares for the next level. There’s even a favorite Jim Harbaugh story in there.
(On third day of practice)
“It went pretty well. Made a few plays. I was disappointed in the last play. Everyone said, ‘You made a good play, shot your gap’ – but me, personally, I take it hard on myself. I’m the type of person where I have to make the tackle in the backfield because it’s a game of inches. That could be the difference between a touchdown, winning a Super Bowl or losing a Super Bowl.”
(On preparing for draft)
“I’ve done pretty well. I was training out in LA and staying on a strict diet. It was a little bit of a challenge at first, but I finally got (the diet) down. Every day I eat my vegetables, eat my fruit and stay hydrated. Keeping your body right with nutrition, you really understand how important it is. Some of the guys on our team, I know some of them were cramping up and everything. But I’m just going, because of all the vegetables I’m eating, making sure I keep bad food out of my diet.”
(On progressing throughout college)
“Yeah, I’m always trying to get better. I took practice very seriously this year … I always take it seriously, but this year it just seemed like I took it even more seriously, just honing in and wanting to make plays. I felt like if I wasn’t out here given 100 percent on the practice field, I wasn’t giving 100 percent in the game. The way I look at it is, everything is effort. You never know when this game is going to be taken away from you. Each and every day I come out here and compete. I love this game. Some people, they come out here and complain, (say) ‘I’m tight or I’m sore’ or this or that. But when you get the opportunity to play this game that you love, and showcase your talent in front of scouts, and have the chance to make money for yourself and your family, you just have to go hard each and every day. I always want to out-compete everyone out there. I just want to be the player everyone looks at like, ‘I want to be as good as him at practice.’ Even if I’m a backup somewhere, I know the person in front of me must be really good because he’ll have to out-practice me and out-competed me. I know if I’m doing my best, then he’d doing his best.”
(On Michigan teammates raising his game, level of competition)
“I always love guys from Michigan and when they go on and do big things in the NFL. But I really don’t focus on other people, except for my teammates I play with now. I just try to focus on myself. But having guys like (Michigan DBs) Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling – all of them being great players and hearing about their NFL Combine invite – that just pushes me more. I’m just flying under the radar and trying to get better each and every day so by the end of the day, people will go back and look at film and ask, ‘Why didn’t we look at him before?’ Make people reconsider.”
(On being overlooked in Wolverine’s talent-laden secondary)
“I think we’re all pretty good back there in that secondary. We all have different talents and are unique in the way we do things. Jabrill took a lot of attention but he deserved it. The kid played both ways for us, made plays and is a great athlete. It wasn’t hype – he was just doing really well.”
(On Peppers a sure-fire first rounder)
“Yeah, that kid is explosive. Anytime you have a kid like that, with that size and who can run that fast and move the way he does, and hit and run the ball, you gotta take that kid. You have to take that kid and you have to take him early. You don’t want to leave him on the board and then have to face him every year and think, ‘Sh*t I shoulldve taken him.’ He’s defintely going to be an impact player. I could see him being someone special in the NFL, especially with returning. The way he can move with the ball in his hands is something special.”
(On being a versatile safety)
“I like to play more in the middle of the field. I just like being deep back there, reading the quarterback’s eyes and breaking on the ball. That was probably my strength. But I also like to get down in the box and make tackles. I like to cover. I just pretty much do whatever the team or coach asks of me. I just want to play – I just want to see the field. No matter what they have me doing, I’m going to give it my all, work 110 percent.”
(On Jim Harbaugh stories)
“Jim’s just a crazy guy. He always has a lot of great quotes, a lot of funny quotes … probably when he told us a story about when he was a little kid and how used to run home from school and got hit by the mail truck. He was out still playing football in a cast and they found out he had to go back to the hospital – I think he re-broke his arm or leg – he had to go back in a cast because it only made it worse. I think that’s what it was, a mail truck. But I wasn’t surprised. If something like that were to happen, it would be to coach Harbaugh.”
(On what he’s worked on most at Shrine practice)
“I play scooch technique, trying to get my hands on the slot. Here, they want me to back up a little bit because in the NFL they say the slot receivers are a little faster. They’re quicker and faster, so I’m going to have to backpedal a little bit. That’s something I have to work on, backpedaling and not getting your hands on them. I’m so used to being physical in the Big 10, so it’s going to be an adjustment. But I feel like a few weeks of practice – understanding the concept and learning how to play – I feel like I can get it.”
(On slot receivers at East practice who stood out)
“Both the top receivers we go against are pretty good, the guy from Arkansas (Keon Hatcher) and the guy from Florida State (Kermit Whitfield). I covered the Florida State guy in the (bowl) game and I thought he was pretty fast, pretty explosive. He can make some good plays. The Arkansas guy, he doesn’t look fast but he’s pretty fast. Strong guy too. They’re both out here competing, helping me get better. And I’m trying to help them get better. That’s all it is, trying to help each other get better.”