Print and Go Back ESPN.com: College Basketball Nation [Print without images]

Wednesday, May 4, 2011
College basketball to NFL draft is doable

By Diamond Leung

If Gonzaga guard Demetri Goodson hoped to boost his pro potential by leaving basketball and transferring to play football, consider that one athlete from the Pacific Northwest showed it could be done just this past weekend.

The Denver Broncos selected Portland State's Julius Thomas in the fourth round of the NFL draft on Saturday, seeing potential in a player who starred on the basketball team for four years before walking on as a fifth-year senior to play tight end.

Thomas, a 6-foot-5 forward who played in two NCAA tournaments, had the game-winning dunk in the 2009 Big Sky title game, and averaged 10.8 points as a senior, told reporters that then-coach Ken Bone discouraged him from playing both sports as a freshman and said he could always use his redshirt year to play football after his career, which he did despite only one year of high school football experience.

Bone earlier this year recalled Thomas was his Jon Brockman on the court, and his basketball background ultimately helped his chances in football. The 246-pound Thomas caught 29 passes for 453 yards and two touchdowns in his lone college season on the gridiron.

"One of the things that I think really helps me is anticipating things quickly, and when you play basketball, you're required to anticipate at the drop of a dime," Thomas told reporters. "You learn certain things, and it gives defenders a look. We're used to setting guys up, getting open and working with body contact, and I think those things really help you become a natural person, and it gives you natural passing lanes for the quarterback."

Thomas said coaches at the NFL combine told him he had a lot of ability and a long way to go, which is a good thing.

"I think that is something teams are excited to hear about," he said. "I haven't really tapped out my potential."