He lined up at his nose tackle position, looked to his right, then looked to his left, and realized he was now the elder statesman on the Chargers defensive line. At 26 years old entering his fourth season with the Bolts, Thomas is the longest tenured member of the unit.
“I was out there thinking just how much I’ve grown from when I first got here,” he said. “It seems like I just got here, and now I’m in my fourth year. I listened and observed everything the veterans did, and I’ve grown tremendously. Now it’s my job to give that wisdom out. How to study and watch tape and absorb the knowledge of the game and learn the keys. I’m the old-hand now. It’s my turn to teach the young pups.”
Defensive tackle was one of the positions the Chargers decided to go in a different, younger direction than in years past. The team opted not to bring back Aubrayo Franklin and released Antonio Garay, convinced that Thomas is up to the challenge of taking on a more prominent role. Over the first three years of his career, Thomas recorded 47 tackles and six sacks in mostly a reserve capacity. He now looks forward to proving he can do even more as a full-time starter.
“It’s like paradise,” he said. “I have young man Kendall on one side and my little bro Corey on the other, and it just doesn’t get better than that. They have power and speed and everything you look for. I love it.”
According to Thomas, he follows a well thought out method to his job as the nose tackle.
“My role is to do the dirty work,” he explained. “I want to take on the blockers to let the linebackers make the play. And when it’s time for me to make the play, I’ve got to make the play. So if I take on two linemen, the linebackers will make the play. If one of the linemen comes off of me to take on the linebacker, then I’ll make the play and make them pay.”
For most players in the league, being 26 years old with three years of experience means you are still learning as a young player in the NFL. But with the Chargers undergoing a youth movement along the defensive line, Thomas is hoping to prove just because he is young, doesn’t mean he can’t have the impact of a sage and wily veteran both on the field and in the locker room.