Mike Thomas is fun-loving, relaxed and speaks with a slow Texas drawl. Don't mistake this for a lack of confidence or intelligence. Thomas is quick-witted, smart and extremely confident in his abilities and what he can bring to the Jaguars offense.
It took him only 14 games in 2009 to set the franchise record for receptions by a rookie, with 48, and his 453 receiving yards were also the most by a rookie wide receiver in team history. Thomas has a history of making plays, considering he owns the Pac-10 all-time record with 259 career receptions.
Just don't ask him to talk about his accomplishments. We found out during this interview those are things he will discuss when his career is over. Thomas sat down with jaguars.com this week to discuss his rookie season, some of the players he admires and to give a scouting report on the club's wide receivers.
Let's get it started with the tough question right off the bat. Do you hear all the questions from the outside about whether you are capable of being the number two receiver opposite Mike Sims-Walker?
Yeah. It's a part of it. It comes with the territory. Of course, the number two spot is wide open so somebody has to fill it.
For people that don't know you, they don't realize you are a pretty confident guy. Have you always been that way?
When I was little, I was always that guy scoring touchdowns all the time. Everybody kind of looked up to me and I just grew into it. It just stuck with me.
I wouldn't find anyone in this locker room to say a negative word about you. Have you always been the popular kid?
Yeah, the girls always loved me. I was the good guy.
Seriously, I would think your confidence would grow when you have a Pac-10-record 259 receptions in college. Am I right?
I really never honed into the whole receptions thing until my last game of my collegiate career. Those things aren't really a big deal to me until it happens. I never put any energy into those things. I just go out and play and have fun. Those things just come along with it.
Did you pay the quarterback off in college or was there any other receiver allowed to catch the ball?
Yeah, I actually felt I should have got some more balls. At the end they started going away from me a little bit.
You were brought in as a fourth-round pick last year and had a really good offseason. Then you were inactive the first two games. Was that a humbling experience?
It was very humbling but it was also a chance to see what a game actually looks like. You see the people I practice with actually be in a game. Seeing that was part of the learning curve for me.
How frustrating have the nagging hamstring injuries been for you which caused you to miss practices last year and some time this offseason?
Man, you can control it to the extent that you make sure you do enough cold tub, stretching and that kind of thing. You never know. You can go out there thinking you are feeling great and try to accelerate too fast, make a wrong cut, and your hamstring will go out on you. It's part of football like an ankle sprain. You have to give yourself a chance to stay healthy.
You improved weekly throughout the season and ended up being a guy David Garrard looked for late in the game.
Without a doubt, I want to be a playmaker and I want them to know that. Outside of Mike Sims-Walker, Marcedes (Lewis) and Maurice (Jones-Drew), I want to be involved. I want to be one of those guys that is a piece of the puzzle.
Was there a game last year where you felt it all come together?
I think the Jets game was kind of a key for me. It made it easier for me and made me realize that it's just football. You put everything aside, it's still football no matter how you want to dissect it.
Personally, I don't think people made enough of a deal about you setting the franchise record by a rookie for receptions in only 14 games. Did you have a chance to look back at all and appreciate it?
Those things aren't that big to me. I said this at Arizona, once you're gone from places and you set records, five or 10 years later that is when you get the privilege of talking some noise to your friends and enjoying it. Right now it really doesn't mean anything. It's good to have and it's for the next man to break.
Do you have any personal goals this year?
I have some goals depending on how much we throw the ball. I would like to have somewhere between 60 and 80 catches. I want to be a starter. After that I think everything else will fall in line. If you go out there and lay your heart out then you are going to make plays.
The Jaguars drafted two returners this year in Scotty McGee and Deji Karim. I know you are not ready to give up returning punts just yet.
No. I love the ball in my hands. Obviously with them drafting some return guys, I imagine they won't want me to do it every time. I would definitely love to get back there once a quarter.
Was it different returning punts in the NFL from college?
You have better punters, the ball spins with the wind and they get the ball in the air higher than college. That is the biggest difference.
Did you watch more film last year than you ever watched?
Yes. That was really my first time studying and looking at coverages. When we watched film in college we just kind of watched ourselves. We weren't worried about coverages or what the defense was going to do. When you get to this level you have to spend time doing that.
There are a long line of small guys that burst onto the NFL scene and faded away. But you also have guys like Wes Welker and Steve Smith who have put together great careers. Who do you compare yourself with or watch on film?
Steve Smith is my favorite. I love watching him play. He has respect across the league. Wes Welker is one of the best in the game at the slot. You have other guys like Percy Harvin who is coming along. You need a good slot (receiver) these days.
What are some of the advantages with your size?
Usually when you're not as tall you are a little quicker, little more agile, faster. I can run like a tall man. It really doesn't matter.
You were fortunate enough to have an Arizona teammate get drafted with you last year in Eben Britton. Did the fans in Jacksonville get to see the full Eben Britton last year?
I don't think so. He really didn't step on to the scene until his junior year of college. That is when he became a leader and said, 'I'm the best tackle we have.' Personally, I think last year was good for him. It was a break-in year for him. Now you are going to start seeing him excel and become more a vocal leader.
Can you believe how many guys we have from the West Coast and Pac-10 in this locker room?
It's pretty deep. I guess you can say we have a lot of elite players in the Pac-10. It's good little bragging rights.
Now you are from DeSoto, Texas. How did you end up at Arizona?
That was my first and only visit I took. I had some other offers but I only tookone visit. It was the whole experience. The college was nice, weather was great and I felt comfortable. My father didn't want me to be confused by taking too many visits. If I could go back and do it again, I would take all my visits. I was happy with the way everything turned out, but I would definitely take the rest of my visits to see how they compared.
Being from Texas, I thought maybe UT or Oklahoma would be in the mix.
Not Texas. I liked Oklahoma growing up. They offered me after Derrick Williams signed with Penn State. My dad said they didn't try to get me from the start. I had all the schools in the Big 12 besides Texas.
Growing up in Texas, were you a fan of the Cowboys?
A little bit. I watched the Cowboys but I wouldn't say I was a big fan of them. They were so close so I was rooting for them.
Anybody you grew up watching?
Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith and those guys. Brett Favre, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Randy Moss was kind of my era. Cris Carter and Jake Reed as well.
Okay. I want you to give me a scouting report on a couple of receivers. First up is Jarett Dillard.
He has great ball skills, great jumping ability, nice quickness, very detailed in what he does as far as learning. He is very detailed in all phases.
The sky is the limit for him. He has all the intangibles: big, fast, good hands, smart.
He is controlling his own destiny. He has been in the game for a long time and with that comes experience. He has been in big games, knows how to get through camp, sustain and maintain to be a part of what's going on. He is definitely the burner of the group. He can run. You can't account for that speed.
I hope fans take advantage of getting to know you better. You started your own Facebook page and are a regular on twitter, @MikeThomasJAX. Is this a sign of you coming out of your shell?
I think part of it is coming out of my shell and it's just being me. I guess I earned that right to be myself. There is too much good to come out of it if you use it in a positive way by using Twitter or Facebook. We are all people and I think people lose sight of that sometimes. We pay bills, eat and sleep just like everybody else.