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Saturday, April 30, 2011
Another hoopster in the AFC West

By Bill Williamson

Julius Thomas won’t have to look far for inspiration as he tries to become the next former college basketball player to become a stalwart NFL tight end.

The premier tight end in the NFL is San Diego’s Antonio Gates, who was a college basketball star at Kent State. Gates never played college football. Thomas did play football at Portland State after playing basketball.

Thomas -- who said Saturday he models his game after Gates’ game -- was considered an interesting NFL prospect because of his 6-foot-4, 245-frame and his great athleticism.

Denver clearly thought a lot of Thomas. It traded its fifth and sixth-round picks to Green Bay for the Packers' fourth and seventh-round picks to take Thomas. He was taken ahead of Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams and Nevada tight end Virgil Green.

Denver needs immediate help at tight end. It might be a stretch to think Thomas can help right away, but he has long-term potential.

Remember, Denver took a raw receiver named Shannon Sharpe in 1990. He ended up being a Hall of Fame tight end who Denver football leader John Elway knows a little about.