Peyton Manning tied the record for touchdowns in a game with 7 last Thursday when he faced the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. He was the first player to achieve such a feat since Joe Kapp in 1969, according to ESPN.com. What may be lost in the all-time performance by Manning is the emergence of No. 80. He caught five passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. A former Portland State basketball player, Julius Thomas, averaged 10.8 points on the court, but is now putting up 20 plus points for NFL Fantasy league owners.
In fact he may not be known very well due to his background and unproductive first 2 years in the NFL, but he is now the most coveted waiver wire pick-up in fantasy football for week one. A guy who had one NFL catch in his first two years will now be a player who will start in a fantasy league, where usually the ten to twelve best statistical tight ends play. While it is a “feel good” story, this kind of attention will lead to pressure. Who knows how people will react when suddenly put under the spot light? (Johnny Manziel) Fantasy owners and Broncos fans will hope the pressure doesn’t cause negative situations. One could look at Thomas’ arrest almost three weeks ago, and hope it was just one mistake.
However, his build and speed (6′ 5″ and a 4.6 forty yard dash) led the Broncos to draft him with a fourth-round pick, and it could lead to another great NFL tight end who use to play basketball in college. It seems popular now for non-NBA level talent with the right size to give football a shot after the likes of future Hall of Fame players like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. Thomas could be the next in the line of converted athletes, but he will face a major challenge. He will have to put up statistics in an offense where Peyton Manning has a plethora of weapons, on top of being one of the least experienced on the field.
“Someone said it was 718 days since I last caught a pass,” Thomas said to the Boston Herald. “It’s tough to stay focused and keep remembering what you’re working for, but I made it through and it feels good to have all that behind me.” A quote like that can point to a trait that may be the reason NFL fans should believe in Thomas. That trait is resilience. He was a player with little football experience, buried in the depth charts with fourth-round expectations, and suffers a severe high ankle sprain on his only catch in two years. Yet, he has survived.
“I know it was 54 weeks in the training room. I’ve said that. I know that number,” Thomas said to ESPN’s Jeff Legwold “A lot of early mornings, a lot of late nights. I’ve told people in my family, I think when you go through something like that, it probably changes you in some ways, but I always felt like I had the ability to contribute in this league, to have an impact.”
Julius Thomas believes in himself, but it will be interesting to see if everyone else in the NFL and in fantasy football do too.