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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Former UA receiver Mike Thomas talks Blackmon, Tebow, RichRod

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Roxana Vasquez
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

From the wide receiver position, Juron Criner has gotten all the publicity recently in the city of Tucson, and for good reason — the UA’s all-time leading reception touchdown leader was recently drafted in the fifth round by the Oakland Raiders.

But before Criner came to town and started setting records, it was former UA wideout Mike Thomas who staked claim as arguably Arizona’s best all-time receiver.

Thomas, now entering his fourth year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, currently sits in first place in the UA annals at receptions (259), third in receiving yards (3,321), fourth in touchdown receptions (23) and second in all purpose yardage (4,981).

The Daily Wildcat caught up with Thomas, and talked about things like the NFL Draft, life as a rookie, the UA, Rob Gronkowski and Tim Tebow:

DW: What do you think of the Jaguars’ No. 4 overall pick of Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon? How does he help you out personally?

Mike Thomas: Obviously you get, with (free agent signee) Laurent Robinson as well, you get two bigger bodies on the outside. It definitely immediately puts stress on defenses. They can’t really fit and kinda zone in on the receiver spot, and it just makes them check everybody on the field as opposed to just trying to shut down certain areas of the field. I think it’ll be good, we can definitely expose more matchups and hopefully be a lot better as a receiving group.

You and former UA offensive lineman Eben Britton were both drafted out of Arizona, in the same draft, to the same team, which is kind of rare. Did his presence help to ease your transition into the NFL at all?

Yeah, but no. I say no only because we two totally different positions, but yes because we do get into the huddle at times. Eben is a loud guy; he’s just made that way. We definitely, always will have that camaraderie because we did play at the same school and know some of the same people. We have some things to talk about when maybe there’s nothing to talk about, so that will always be there with him. I know he has my back if I need him and I’m pretty sure he’d feel the same about me. It’s definitely a plus.

A lot of times when rookies get to the league, veterans can often be unhelpful because you’re essentially trying to take their job. Did you find that to be the case in your rookie season?

At the end of the day a lot of people don’t realize that this is a business. That is the job — to take somebody else’s job. That’s what we all strive for, is playing time. Without playing time you can’t make plays, therefore you cant make any money. Which is one of the big reasons why a lot of us play the game. Obviously we all love the game when we playing it, but it’s definitely a bonus to make the amount of money we do, and I can guarantee you that’s why guys put up with it for so long, and just everything that goes into being an athlete in the NFL. I don’t think you look at that like a negative, you learn to adapt to it.

How have you changed as a person since your rookie year?

I’ve grown a lot. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen the league at its worst in the sense of being on the opposite side of getting cut and getting released and having to see guys go through that. I think that’s the worst part of our business, but it’s part of it. I definitely learnt to not take anything for granted and to continue to work. In this league you have to work to stay polished and stay on top of your game. I definitely learned that you definitely have to work, definitely have to work hard, you have to love work to give yourself a chance to be successful.

Have you been keeping track of how the UA has been doing?

Not really, I haven’t been. I did get an update on everyone that got drafted. I’ll definitely catch them whenever I can and see how coach RichRod is coming along, up until this point nothing hasn’t really happened since last year so we’ll see how they pan out when the season starts. I’m sure RichRod is a great guy, I haven’t met him yet so I don’t know too much about him, but from what I hear they’re happy with him and that’s what counts.

What do you miss most about the UA and Tucson?

That ZonaZoo, man. That’s one crazy place. Just in general, college is one of the best times of your life. Just being around the campus is a blast and you definitely miss those guys, miss those times. You miss the relationships and just the collegeness of college, just being that age and partying and the football, even going to classes at times was good. Just the whole experience — I really miss that. But, there’s a time and a place that we all gotta go through it and I passed it already.

You played alongside (Patriots tight end) Rob Gronkowski when you were at the UA. Are you at all surprised about how insanely popular and successful he has become?

Not at all. That dude is a freak. He’s definitely a beast. He was a beast when he was in college. I’m not surprised at all at his popularity. His pop comes from his play, which has been superb. I’m happyfor him. He’s got a great quarterback up there with him. He’s very deserving of all that and definitely has the attributes to keep doing it for years to come.

Blaine Gabbert was thrown into the fire as a rookie last year after you guys released David Garrard right before the season, and struggled a bit. Do you think Gabbert is ready to bounce back in his second year?

Absolutely, he doesn’t have a choice. We need him, and I think everybody is gonna be very demanding of him. I would hope that he’s very demanding of himself, and so far I think Blaine has been light years from where he was last year. Just in the things we’re doing now, he wants to improve you can see that, and I think hes doing a great job at that. We’ll continue to work and juts try to get better and keep learning the playbook and keep rolling.

What’s it like playing with a Pro Bowl running back like Maurice Jones-Drew?

He’s definitely the backbone of our team, especially the offense. He’s a tremendous athlete. He does some amazing things on that field, man. From running to blocking to catching, he’s the complete package. It’s definitely a plus to play with him and it’s a lot of fun.

Did you vote in the NFL Network’s Top 100 players poll?

Nah, I didn’t, I’m gonna wait until I get right where they can start talking about putting me in there.

Do you think Tebow (ranked No. 95) deserved to be in there?

Absolutely not. I’m not a big fan of Tebow’s. I think hes a great guy. I think that he can say anything he wants to about his work ethic. He’s a strong mental guy — this is not a diss to Tebow at all but he’s just not a natural quarterback. In this league, he’s not a natural quarterback. You just get tired of Tebow, you see him so much, you see him everywhere and all the Tebowing — I’m not hating. It’s just a little annoying sometimes. For a guy that’s not your prototypical quarterback.

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