MMQB Mailbag: WR Thomas battles family issue, injury to reach draft
One of the most intriguing players in the draft is a receiver from Georgia Tech named
What makes Thomas more interesting:
1. His grandmother trafficked cocaine when he grew up in Georgia, and his mother was a sort of bag lady with the proceeds. When they were caught, the mom wouldn't rat on the grandmother, and Thomas's grandmother got 40 years in prison and his mother 20. He was 12 when it happened, and he was shuttled from family member to family member before finally landing three years later with an uncle who was a preacher. That set him on the right track.
2. While working out just before the NFL Scouting Combine on Feb. 16 in Arizona, Thomas cracked a bone in his right foot doing what they call the three-cone drill. He had surgery Feb. 21, and in the 23 days since, he's been going through a gauntlet of medical treatments designed to get him ready to run for NFL scouts before April 15, the date teams have to stop working out players before the draft.
The normal time for a fifth metatarsal bone to heal and for an average person to be back running and jumping on it is at least 12 weeks. The medics at Athletes Performance Institute in Arizona overseeing Thomas' rehab are trying to patch him up and have him ready to sprint in seven.
"Some of the stuff they're having me do is pretty weird,'' Thomas said from Arizona over the weekend. "But I think it's helping me. I know it's helping me."
The stuff goes back to the surgery itself, when bone marrow was removed from his hip and transfused into the area of the break, where a pin was used to set the bone. "It helps almost like a cement foundation,'' said
Thomas uses a bone stimulator, to speed bone-remodeling. The foot is hit with a cold laser, which stimulates bone-cell growth. He gets massage therapy on the foot. He takes fish oil supplements, a natural anti-inflammatory. He just started last week to be put in a pool in a contraption that allows him to progressively put more and more body weight on his foot while running. At night, he sleeps with electrodes stimulating bone growth through the night. "Our goal is to have him run 100 percent before the draft, so he can show his ability to the NFL teams,'' Hartman said. "But we won't sacrifice his health. I'm positive his foot is not going to be a chronic thing.''
His mom is in jail 'til 2017, Thomas said, which means he'd be an eight-year vet if he makes the NFL and survives long enough for her to see him play. She went to jail between his fifth- and sixth-grade years, and Thomas credits the discipline and schedule instilled by his uncle with helping him get through high school.
"My mom told me she wishes she wasn't where she was right now,'' Thomas said. "I miss her. It's been a challenge for me to stay focused without her over the years. But I always focused on staying away from drugs and trying to become a professional athlete. That's why the broken foot was so bad. I couldn't believe it -- just days away from showing people what I could do at the combine, and this happens. But I'm determined to not let it affect where I'm drafted.''
Thomas still hopes to be a first-round pick, but he'll need rock-solid medical reviews to be able to stay in the first round. Teams already are skeptical of his 40 time (in the 4.55-second range), and if they think the foot might be susceptible to further injury, his stock would plummet. That's one of the reasons he wants to run before the draft. He wants teams to see the injury wasn't calamitous, and he wants teams to know he has the kind of work ethic to put in the long days at API.
Canvassing four teams last week and over the weekend, I came away thinking Thomas, if he passes medical muster, will go somewhere in the lower quarter of the first round -- 25 through 32. If he does, he'll owe Anna Hartman and her troops in Arizona more than just a hearty thanks.
One point about Monday's column: I got a lot of Tweets and a couple of e-mails outraged that I would lump the late
Now onto your other e-mail:
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I got Tweeted about 50 rock Tweets on Monday, most telling me I was nuts to say KISS belongs. Look, regardless of your feeling about the quality of their music (and I've never been a fan), any group that sells 100 million records deserves to be in the rock hall. Come on now.