The Denver Broncos traded back into the 4th Round in order to select Julius Thomas at Tight End, hopefully addressing a huge need on the offense. Thomas only played football for one season and is making the transition from basketball to football. Here are some of his thoughts after being selected by the Broncos:
On the transition from basketball to football
"Football was something I was really passionate about when I was growing up. I ended up spending some time playing basketball and got away from it, and I never really had that chance to get back into it. When the opportunity came, it was something that I really jumped for. When I came out in the spring, it was a little difficult at first-transitioning from basketball to football-but it was something I was excited about, and I felt that I could be successful with it. As the season went on, I started to learn more and more, and the game became my life. I've been so happy ever since, playing football, and I'm just really excited to really get this thing going."
On walking on to the football team
"Originally I walked on. When I was a freshman, I wanted to play both sports, but they told me then-my basketball head coach-told me not to play football, but they told me that if I had a redshirt left at the end of my four years of basketball that I could use that to play football. It was kind of something I was looking forward to all throughout college, and when the new head coach got hired, Coach (Nigel) Burton, I jumped at the opportunity. I went to his office and I told him around December that I was looking to play football in the spring, and he told me he would love to have me out there."
On the difficulties of transitioning from basketball to football
"One of the most difficult things at first was going from being a veteran at what you do-I was a four-year basketball player, senior captain, so there was really nothing that could come my way that I didn't anticipate. Going and being brand new at something, it's frustrating at times being the freshman out there-or the young guy- and having to react to things that I didn't know to anticipate. That was probably one of the hardest things, learning to play lower. Football is a game that is played lower to the ground than basketball is, so working on leverage, especially for somebody at my height, was something that I had to concentrate on."
On being compared to TE Antonio Gates
"Besides the fact that he played basketball, he is a great tight end. He is a guy that you can study and really start to model some of the things you do after. I take it as an honor to be included in the same sentence as a lot of guys who have played basketball and transitioned to football and done well. That's a standard that I want to hold for myself, being successful in making that transition. Being compared to Antonio Gates is a great start for me. I'm going to go ahead and work as hard as I can to make that comparison as similar as possible."
On how he might fit into the Broncos' system
"I haven't really spoken with them about my role, but some things that I'm really going to have to focus one is to really just learn the different things that you are going to need to do in the NFL. It's a more complicated game coming from the scheme we played in college to the scheme in the NFL, so that's going to be my main focus early on, just learning and making sure I have everything down; and then, some of the technique things that I haven't had as much experience with as some of the other guys have because I've only been playing for a year. I'll get with (Tight Ends) Coach (Clancy) Barone, and we'll start working on the technique things we need to address immediately. I'm pretty sure we'll have a plan, and we'll go about it."
On his high school position
"I played strong safety and wide receiver. That's when I actually went out for the team, but I didn't end up playing that season."
On how his basketball background has helped him play football
"One of the things that I think really helps me is anticipating things quickly, and when you play basketball, you're required to anticipate at the drop of a dime. You learn certain things, and it gives defenders a look. We're used to setting guys up, getting open and working with body contact, and I think those things really help you become a natural person, and it gives you natural passing lanes for the quarterback."
On the East-West Shrine Game
"That was huge. Coming from Portland State, a Division 1-AA (FCS) school, and not having much experience with the game, a lot of teams had question marks. ‘What can he do against top-level competition?' Also, it gave me three months to prepare for it. I grew a lot from my last college game to that shrine game, and I think it showed. It really allowed teams to see how I compete against some of the best talent and how far I came in those three months and how much I've learned in that time. I think it really put me on the radar for teams and let them know that I was a serious that they should start looking in to."
On his workouts with the Broncos
"I probably talked to the Broncos more than I talked to any team. Coach Barone came and worked me out at Portland State. We had a great workout, a great meeting, and that was really my favorite meeting with any of the teams. I talked with Coach (Clancy) Barone several times after that and expressed to him how much I enjoyed that meeting and how I felt that if we happen to get together that it would be a great fit for myself. I think that he's a coach that the way he thinks (about) the game is exactly the way I think, and I feel like he is going to be great at helping me understand what is expected of me. That's all you can ask for."
On whether he thought the Broncos would draft him
"I was hoping; you're never sure who's going to take you. You try not to get your hopes up too much, but when people ask what team I hoped to play for, it was definitely the Broncos, and I had my fingers crossed, and I was praying I would be a Denver Bronco next year. I'm excited. This is all I asked for."