Tuesday, June 26, 2012

THOMAS MAKES THE GRADE WITH BOMBERS



BY BILL HUNT

HUNT.BILL@DAILYGLEANER.COM
26 JUNE 2012

It’s official.

Jake Thomas is a Winnipeg Blue Bomber.

The 22-year-old Fredericton native and Leo Hayes High School football product, a fourth round draft choice of the Bombers in the Canadian college draft in May, is part of the Canadian Football League club’s 46-man roster which was field with the league Friday night. He’ll travel with the team to Vancouver for Saturday’s season opening game against the reigning Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions in a rematch of the Grey Cup game.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said the soft-spoken, six-foot-two inch, 266 pound defensive lineman, who starred with the Acadia Axemen of the Atlantic University Sport Football Conference, where he achieved all-Canadian status.

Thomas called the realization of his pro football ambition “a dream come true.”

“Watching all my brothers always playing football, it’s something I always wanted to do for life. It’s pretty awesome I can make a living at it.”

Thomas is the youngest of three Thomas boys. His older brother Josh was a star at Acadia before Jake followed in his footsteps. Billy was a running back at Mount Allison University. Thomas will wear number 95 for the Blue Bombers, the number he wore in high school at Leo Hayes and last year with Team Canada at the International Federation of American Football tournament in Vienna, where he helped Canada to a silver medal.

“It was also Josh’s high school number (at Fredericton High School) so I think that’s probably why I picked it back when I played high school football.”

Thomas felt he had “about a 50-50 chance” to make the Bombers’ roster as a rookie.

“I thought I had an OK chance,” he said. “It wasn’t going to be a guarantee by any means. But I was just trying to get better every day...run to the ball and do all the things that didn’t really take skill work but were more hard work...learn the technique, but always have my motor at 100 per cent.”

It paid off. He played sparingly in the Bombers’ two exhibition games, starting on specialty teams and briefly on the defensive line. The Bombers split those games, beating the Montreal Alouettes 22-10 on June 14 and losing a 26-25 heartbreaker to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last Wednesday at home.

Thomas compared the step to pro football from university to the one he made from high school to university ball at Acadia five years ago.

“It’s kind of like that again,” he said. “You get here and everything is faster...everyone’s bigger, stronger, faster. But as the weeks go on, you get used to the tempo. But there’s definitely a learning curve the first few days.”

Thomas completed his first practice with the final 46-man roster Sunday morning. They’ll practise at home for three more days before flying to Vancouver Thurday for the Friday night season opener. The Bombers play their first four games on the road, including a July 6 appointment in Montreal against the Alouettes.

“I hope to play every game and eventually work my way onto the field,” said Thomas, listed third on the Bombers’ depth chart at left defensive tackle in the last exhibition game behind two players who have since been released, including veteran Dorian Smith and Ryan Lucas, both among the final cuts. “I want to make an impact on special teams as best I can.”

Thomas expects to be nervous.

“I get nervous before pretty much every game,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing. I find if I start to get complacent, that’s when I play badly. But I’ll probably be a little extra nervous for this game.”

Thomas signed a two-year contract with a team option for a third shortly after being selected by the Bombers in the draft.




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