It's now or never for Marcus Thomas
Published: Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 5:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 5:46 p.m.
CENTENNIAL, Colo. — For Marcus Thomas, it's college all over again.
This time he doesn't want to blow it.
Thomas, a defensive tackle, is in his fourth year with Denver after being drafted in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. It's the last year of his contract. He knows what it means.
"It's down to the wire," he said. "I put it in the mindset that I'm back in college. This is the fourth year of college. It's time to start producing. You can't be a rookie forever. I see guys get cut and never sign on with anyone else. I don't want people to be wondering what ever happened to Marcus Thomas."
Thomas started 16 games for the Broncos in 2008 but had no starts last season. He has yet to record an NFL sack.
"I can't believe that," he said. "They're hard to come by."
It is a different Marcus Thomas than the senior who was suspended three times at Florida, the third time permanently. Thomas was suspended for the opener of Florida's national championship campaign in 2006, then again for six games before being reinstated. Prior to Florida's game at Vanderbilt, he was booted from the team.
We wondered at the time if he had thrown it all away. His suspensions were for positive marijuana tests and his dismissal was for violating the restrictions put on him by coach Urban Meyer.
Thomas wondered if he ever would.
"I look back at Florida and I really, really blew it," he said. "I'm definitely more mature now. I thought I had thrown my career away at the time. Luckily, Mike Shanahan gave me a chance. But even when I got to the league, I took it for granted. I thought I was supposed to be here. I should have been drafted higher."
That was then. This is now with an exclamation point.
He can look back at that senior year and shake his head.
What was I thinking?
He was a dominant force in the middle for a Gator team that had one of the best defensive lines in school history. Jarvis Moss, his current Denver teammate, and Derrick Harvey at the ends, both eventual first-round picks. Ray McDonald next to him in the middle. When he came back from the six-game suspension, it was controversial, one of those chances a coach takes that can blow up in his face.
"Missed out on the national championship game," Thomas said. "I was happy they won but I should have been out there. It hurt. It really hurt. On the flip side, when I was watching the game, I was wishing I was playing for Ohio State. There was some resentment.
"But when I look back, I was being prepared for the real world. In college, you're still being babied. You come out here and there are no second or third chances."
This may be his last.
He's fighting for a spot in the Denver rotation, fighting to keep his NFL career alive. Thomas looks into the distance and tries to understand why the young Marcus Thomas thought he could get away with it.
Entitlement. We see it all the time. College football players get that way at times. They think they're the only thing that matters. When a team is fighting for a national title, well, the rules don't apply to the stars.
At least that's what he thought.
"They had some regulations and restrictions I pretty much violated," he said. "I was doing well on the field and I felt like they pretty much needed me. I thought I was bigger than the team. Urban proved I wasn't."
It appeared to be a huge blow for the Gators in 2006. I remember showing up in the Vandy press box and being stunned by the news.
"I got a whole bunch of those hate Facebook messages," Thomas said. "I understand now."
One career was thrown away. This one still has life.
We'll see where it goes.
In this, his senior year.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.