By Mark Janssen
If you think college recruiting is stressful, how about NFL recruiting?
"No comparison," said former K-State running back Daniel Thomas. "This process is a lot more stressful because they're picking you instead of you picking a school or a team."
"You go first class and stay in the best hotels, but that's a lot of travel," said Thomas of the workouts and background checks that take place prior to the April 28-30 NFL Draft. "It's been fun, but I'm ready for it to be over."
But until the start of Thursday's draft, Thomas will be forced to sit and wait ... and wait ... and wait at his home of Hilliard, Fla., before going to New York City for the draft.
"You never know where you'll go, and you definitely don't know how high you might go," said Thomas, who became K-State's second all-time leading rusher in just two seasons with the Wildcats. "I've heard late first round, or in the second round, but you never know."
To the majority of the mock drafts that project Thomas in the third round, he quipped, "As far as I know, none of those guys are general managers making the decisions. Most of what I hear is that I won't get past the second round."
Since the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Thomas spent much of the month of January in Boca Raton, Fla., in a training camp designed for running backs, who are eligible for the draft.
Due to a minor hamstring injury, he missed the Senior Bowl and a portion of the NFL Combine.
What he did do at the Combine, however, was the interview process.
"That was the longest day of my life," Thomas said. "I talked to a total of 20 teams. You spend 15 minutes with a team, and then go to the next, and then to the next. It goes until two in the morning."
Thomas said the mini-interviews are all about character checks.
"You hear the same questions over and over," said Thomas. "They want to know if you're married, if your parents are still married, to what's the difference between a car and a boat. I don't even remember what I said. It didn't make any sense."
Thomas did bench press 225 pounds 21 times at the Combine, which he said "... was pretty good."
He didn't run the 40-yard-dash until a Pro Day in mid-March in the K-State indoor facility.
"I read papers that said it was a 4.6, but I've also heard low 4.5s, so I don't know where people get those figures they print because I don't even know," said Thomas, who measured 6-0 ¼ and 228 pounds at the Combine. "From what I hear, I'm fast enough."
One scouting service defined Thomas' workout as "solid, but not great," "smooth and athletic, but did not look as good catching passes," and, "didn't look natural running pass routes and dropped two passes."
Most draft boards have Thomas ranked as the fifth-best running back in the draft behind Mark Ingram of Alabama, Mikel LeShoure of Illinois, Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech and DeMarco Murray of Oklahoma.
Scouting reports have both the good, and the iffy areas when looking at Thomas beyond K-State:
• Excellent height and bulk with a large, sturdy frame
• Athletic with nice agility, balance and nimble feet
• Is strong, tough, powerful and runs extremely hard
• Patient but decisive with good vision and instincts
• A classic downhill runner who excels on the interior
• Doesn't go down easily and will usually fall forward
• Gets job done in short-yardage / goal line situations
• Is more than capable as pass catcher out of backfield
• An adequate blocker with the potential to be fantastic
• Determined with good work ethic and solid intangibles
• Very productive and excelled against top competition
• Just does not have great speed, quickness or a burst
• Runs too tall and leaves himself open to punishment
• Not very shifty or elusive and won't make people miss
• Will struggle to get outside and turn corner in pros
• Is not a big play threat who will take it the distance
• Struggled in classroom and intelligence is a concern
Previous K-State running backs to go in the Top 100 selections have been Veryl Switzer, No. 4 in 1954, Corky Taylor No. 18 in 1955, Maurice Elder No. 26 in 1957, Mike Montgomery No. 65 in 1971, Ralph Pfeifer No. 82 in 1958.
Somewhat recently, Darren Sproles was the 130th player selected in the 2005 draft in the fourth round, Josh Scobey No. 185 in the sixth round in 2002, Thomas Clayton No. 186 in the sixth round in 2007, and Rock Cartwright No. 257 in the seventh round in 2002.
This year's NFL Draft will include the first-round selections on April 28, second and third rounds on April 29, and rounds four through seven on April 30.
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