The Denver Broncos selected Portland State basketball star Julius Thomas in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. No, the Broncos and the Nuggets didn’t lose their scouting papers in a wind storm. The Broncos just really believe in Thomas’s ability as a tight end.
Thomas played just one season of college football at Portland State, but was third in receiving with 29 receptions for 453 yards and two touchdowns during his senior year.
As a basketball player his senior year, Thomas averaged 10.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, and shot .671 from the field which was a school-record.
As the Broncos’ scouting department was looking at Thomas, were they drawing comparisons to former Kent State basketball star and current San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates?
“I don’t deal with what-if’s and potential, and what not,” John Fox told the media Thursday afternoon. “We think high enough of him to have him on our 53-man roster. We do like him and we’ll see where that goes.”
It’s hard not to draw the comparisons. As stars on the hardwood, both Thomas and Gates had limited football experience in college. Gates stands 6’4,” 260 pounds while Thomas stands 6’5,” 255 pounds.
Gates is the Chargers’ all-time leader in receptions and one of the most consistent performers in the league. He’s been to the Pro Bowl eight times, and from 2004-2010, Gates has had at least eight touchdown receptions in each of those seasons. The Broncos are hoping for at least some of that production out of Thomas.
Thomas played in just five games (with one reception) in 2011, however, after suffering an ankle injury that sidelined him. Not that the Broncos threw the ball much, but Thomas would have been a nice target for Tim Tebow.
Of course in the off season, the Broncos brought in Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen, two veteran tight ends that have combined for 32 catches for 271 yards and four touchdowns in five games this season.
Tight end Virgil Green returned to the roster last week after serving his four game suspension for violating the league’s banned substances policy.
Where does that leave room for Thomas?
“Julius is an excellent athlete,” Peyton Manning said. “I think just not he’s getting healthy. I had some good work with him in the off season before he was injured, and (he’s) certainly a guy with pretty rare size and speed. The injury, like you would expect, kind of set him back a little bit, but he’s a guy that coaches like. Just kind of getting him out there on the field, getting repetitions. That’s kind of the key.”
So, Thomas won’t just be waiting in the wings for his chance. He’ll be working on getting better along the way behind the spotlights.
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