He had every reason to, because it was only four days before — on New Year’s Day — when he helped Stanford defeat Wisconsin 20-13 and give the Cardinal their first Rose Bowl victory since 1972.
“That’s the reason why I came back for my fifth year,” said the redshirt senior captain and starting outside linebacker who amassed 47 career starts and graduated from Stanford in December with a degree in communications. “I wanted to help the team win the Pac-12 championship and the Rose Bowl. Accomplishing that made this season really special.
“Winning the Orange Bowl (in 2011) was cool and playing in the Fiesta Bowl (in 2012) was alright, but winning in the Rose Bowl and holding that rose was just more special than any other bowl game.”
The day after the victory, Thomas flew home to Marietta for his brief respite before flying out again Monday to begin the next chapter of his life — preparing for April’s NFL Draft. He starts training today in Del Ray, Fla. with XPE Sports and Tony Villani, hoping to improve himself as an athlete.
“I need to work on some things like my change of direction, exploding off the line and making plays in open space,” he said. “I feel like my game has developed over the years. I just need to improve on some things. Working with these guys will help me become a better player and prepare me for what I’ll have to face over the next few months.”
The 6-foot-4, 239 pound Thomas will participate in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. on Jan. 26 and he’s been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Feb. 20-26. His Pro Day at Stanford will take place in March.
Currently, most experts have Thomas being selected on the second day of the draft, either in the second or third round. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. says Thomas is the third ranked senior at outside linebacker in the draft.
During his final year at Stanford, Thomas’ father, Tom, took care of looking at which player-agent representative Thomas should sign. Once the group was narrowed down to about two to three agencies, Thomas took his time to meet with each one before selecting SportsTrust Advisors in Atlanta.
Some of SportsTrust current clients include former Georgia and current Cincinnati Bengals players Geno Atkins, Clint Boling and Robert Geathers, as well as New Orleans Saints guard Ben Grubbs and Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.
“When I got home from the bowl game, it was about figuring out which agent I was going to sign with and just hanging out at home,” Thomas said. “My dad did most of the agent selection, and it came down Athletes First and SportsTrust. I met with both of them and felt most comfortable with SportsTrust. My main agent will be Michael Perrett.”
With his college football season over and degree in hand, Thomas is looking forward to his training and the time he has leading up to the draft. His focus is on getting better and getting teams saying good things about him and his overall abilities.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience playing football from high school to college and now leading up to the draft,” said Thomas, who has heard that he’s in the ballpark of being a second to fourth round selection. “Every player dreams of this moment. I’m blessed to be in this situation.
“I just need to be disciplined, and I can’t get down on anything. I have to really step on the gas and get things cranked up to get to where I want to be.”