Former University of Florida defensive tackle Marcus Thomas understands that he has as much to prove off the field as on it leading up to the NFL Draft. Thomas was dismissed from the team prior to the Vanderbilt game on Nov. 4 for what coach Urban Meyer deemed an inability "to meet his responsibilities and obligations to remain on the team." It ended a tumultuous senior season for the Jacksonville, Fla., native. Thomas missed Florida's season opener because of a suspension for failing a drug test during the summer. He also served a two-game suspension midseason for a failed drug test, though Thomas said both suspensions were for the same failed test. He said his dismissal from the team resulted from his failure to attend a drug-education class. Thomas started all five games this season in which he was available and had 26 tackles, 5.5 for loss and four sacks. Frank Coyle of draftinsiders.com rates Thomas as the No. 57 prospect in the draft. In this entry, Thomas talks about what has transpired and what lies ahead before the
NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February.
"I watched the national championship game. I talked to the guys on the d-line before the game and after. I was proud of them. Most definitely I wanted to be out there. It ain't like they needed my help, but I wanted to be part of that experience. Yeah, it hurt not to be out there with them.
"I was down there for the celebration. It hurt some, but I still wanted to be around the fans and the guys. I still support everything about the University of Florida. I do wish I could have been there, but things happen. All I can do is make the best of it now."
Thomas has selected an agent. It's his old coach at Jacksonville Mandarin High School, Richard Burnoski.
"He's always been there for me. He found a school for me and dealt with all of that when I came out of high school. Now he's an agent, and I went with him.
"As far as the draft goes, it's all over the board (on when he may be picked). I've talked to some people who say the third round, some people say still in the first round. I really don't know. I was talking to a couple of people in the league … Sam Cowart (a former Mandarin standout who played nine seasons in the NFL), he was telling me that the draft thing, it depends who wants you at any one time. Sometimes it may be sooner than you think, sometimes later. It really doesn't matter to me what round it is. I just have to keep my head up."
Because he was not in good standing with his school, Thomas has not been allowed to participate in any postseason showcases. However, he has been invited to the NFL Combine.
"They won't let me play in the Senior Bowl (on Jan. 27), but I am going up there to meet with different scouts and personnel guys. Coach Bruno (Burnoski, the agent) said it would be a good idea to go up there. I'm really close with my teammates (four of whom will play in the Senior Bowl – Chris Leak, Dallas Baker, Earl Everett and Ray McDonald), and they tell me how the scouts are asking about me. I'll try to mingle with some people and show the kind of person I am, and really just wait for Indy. I've been working out all day long every day to get ready.
"The most important thing for me is to show them I'm not a bad person. Coach Bruno has been saying that NFL people know I can play, but there are the
off-the-field issues. I've never had any real problems with the law. I made what I thought was a little mistake but it was a really big one and a dumb one
and I know that now. I feel I have something to prove, and I'll do the best I can. I want to get back on that field. I've been missing it."