It’s the goal of every newcomer to the Canadian Football League when they first step on the field for a preseason game: show up any way, anyhow, on the game film.
Fast forward to the very end of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 25-23 victory over the Edmonton Elks in Alberta on Saturday and there was #92 in blue – Thomas – pushing back on a guard and then throwing up his right hand to block a potential game-winning 52-yard field goal by Dean Faithfull.
And earlier in the first quarter Thomas made his first solid impression, blasting through the middle to bring down Elks QB Taylor Cornelius for a sack and 12-yard loss.
“I came out feeling pretty good. We got the win,” Thomas said Tuesday upon the completion of another day of Blue Bombers training camp.
“A lot of things I need to clean up individually and as a team and as a unit. So, we’re just looking to build moving forward.
“It definitely feels great to make plays on the football field. That’s the main reason we all play. You want to make plays, you want to feel good, you want to contribute to the team. I definitely had a great feeling coming off the field after the game.”
Thomas was a late addition to the training camp roster, added a couple days into rookie camp. The club had first scouted him at the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas and then at the University of Connecticut Pro Day.
“They reached out to me about three weeks ago and said are you interested in playing in the CFL and I said, ‘Sure, why not?’” explained Thomas. “They flew me out the next day.
“I had faith something was going to come. I’m blessed to be here, blessed to have this opportunity.”
Thomas began his collegiate career at UConn before transferring to the University of Louisiana-Monroe, where he spent the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Last year the 6-1, 300-pound tackle had 19 solo tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks for the Warhawks in 12 games.
He said he knew the basics about the CFL after hearing about it from some of his Canadian teammates at UConn but added, “I didn’t know too much about Winnipeg.”
Asked or an assessment on Thomas, head coach Mike O’Shea offered this:
“He’s made some plays. We talked about that whatever the day it was when the questions were what do people need to do and one of my answers was make plays and he seems to have made a couple, for sure.
“Big guy, moves it well, seems to get a good push, seems to come off the blocks well.”
One confession from Thomas as he came clean on Tuesday – he was the culprit on a couple of defensive offside calls against the Elks. All part of the learning curve from the American to the Canadian game.
“In the game it definitely feels different,” he said. “I don’t think anything prepares you for that. You’ve just got to play it. Last week was also a learning experience for me as well and I’m just learning to build from that.
“The game definitely moves faster. I feel like American games are a little longer with just the way the clock is run and things of that sort. Also, what was big for me is the yard off the line of scrimmage. I actually got a couple offsides and I’m looking to build from that and just learn from that. Now that I’ve actually done it, I’ve seen how I can improve on it, so it was a good experience for me.”