Given Time, There Will Be No Doubting Thomas
Portland Thunder quarterback Darron Thomas can be counted among the things this young team has done right. Not only was Thomas, an unparallelled success at the University of Oregon, an obvious choice for the face of this team but Darron is a player fans can grow to love... again.
First of all, he can play. Please don't be fooled by NFL Draft pontification. Thomas can play. Criticized as a “system quarterback,” there can be no arguing that the “system” with Thomas at its helm sprinted to a Rose Bowl victory and a near national title and is now the toast of football.
Ironically, the Oregon speed zone, or some variation thereof, is now used in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Carolina and Washington. In the AFL, Thomas' ability to avoid the sack and move logically in the pocket in a high speed situations will eventually show him to be a great fit for arena ball. So to will Thomas' team first approach. Given the opportunity, Thomas can work the ball down the field well and is especially deft at the intermediate zone killer type passes. The Chip Kelly offense instilled selflessness and a, “take what the defense gives you “ mind set that will serve well with Portland.
Furthermore, Thomas was said to have some accuracy and arm strength issues. Both of these were brushed off by multi-team NFL vet Andre Thurman who spent 2013 with the Philadelphia soul. “If anything, Darron could take a little off at times,” joked Thurman as he was praising Thomas' arm. Thurman, who caught passes from the likes of Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Jake Locker, knows of which he speaks and listed a half a dozen NFL backups that he felt Thomas could replace at a moments notice.
Thomas' collegiate resume is a who's who of great college and now pro quarterbacks who failed to best the Ducks while No. 1 was at the helm. Many on this list fell to the Thomas-led Ducks twice as the U of O compiled a 24-3 record in his years as the starter. The list includes such luminaries as Andrew Luck, Jake Locker, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley and Russell Wilson, whom he handed a Rose Bowl loss. One further gold star adorns Thomas' list of accomplishments, and that is his stat line versus Cam Newton in the narrow and classic National Championship Game loss to Auburn.
For his part, Thomas refuses to be bitter or angry and continues to grant interviews to people who he is well aware had a field day with his surprising early exit from Eugene. “No... not at all, I'm a bigger person than that. I'll talk with anyone,” said Thomas with a smile when I asked if he considered freezing out his critics.
Darron is a player confident in his physical skills and well aware of his shortcomings with a maturity that does not squelch his fun-loving nature and real ability to connect with fans.
Furthermore, Thomas has no trouble accepting “expert” opinion when it comes to his physical skill set and seems to realize that analysis of the minutiae is just part of the game with in the game. What does seem to bother the 23-year old signal caller are the reports of leadership and character issues. In point of fact, Thomas received not so much as a traffic ticket while in Eugene and enjoys a good relationship with many, if not all, former and current Ducks. This was in evidence as the Jumbotron at the Moda Center showed former Ducks Dennis Dixon of the Bills and Ed Dickson of the Ravens in attendance on opening night.
Bob Jones, the US ARMY high school all-star game coach and Thomas' Aldine High School coach stated in a recent telephone interview, “I will stand up on my desk and shout out loud that this kid doesn't have character issues.”
Jones states that, as a mentor to Thomas and a kind of representative at times, the only off-field mistakes Darron has made have been those of timing or out of loyalty. Thomas told Jones at one point that he had received an offer from the higher profile Thunder, but that due to a previous agreement to play for his old mentor in the CIFL he was going to turn Portland down. Jones laughed and stated that he said something along the lines of “...then Darron, I just resigned as coach of that team”.
It just feels as though Thomas was the right choice to lead this team and that his return was almost preordained. The young redshirt frosh that, put in as an afterthought late in a Boise State rout, nearly mounted one of the most heroic comebacks in school history, has come home. He lost that night -- after all he was nine months out of high school -- but that furious rally was to be the opening lines to green and yellow legend. He elevated Oregon football to a level that Dixon, Joey Harrington, or even the great Dan Fouts never came near.
I believe Darron Thomas will pay off sooner than later for our new team, but regardless if he moves on to the NFL or if the Arena Football League proves to be his undoing, Thomas deserves to hear our state cheering for him again.
“People ask me if this is a stepping stone and I tell them no, its not... maybe its a stepping stone in life... but as for football this is where I play. I'm Thunder 100 percent” -Darron Thomas