NFL Draft: Q&A with Clemson offensive lineman Brandon Thomas

Clemson Tigers running back Zac Brooks (24) celebrates his second quarter touchdown with quarterback Tajh Boyd (10) and offensive tackle Brandon Thomas (63). Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

 

With the 2014 NFL Draft only a few months away, we reached out to some of the draft prospects we believe the Green Bay Packers could target in May. Last week, we heard from four very talented players, and we kick off this week’s group with Clemson offensive lineman Brandon Thomas.

Thomas started 36 games at Clemson and played both guard and tackle in his four years with the Tigers, earning first-team All-ACC honors in 2012 and 2013 as the team’s starting left tackle. Thomas is a versatile offensive lineman that some believe could project well at guard in the NFL because of his 6-foot-3, 315-pound frame.

Thomas was also one of the standout offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl down in Mobile, AL, and a player many draft analysts, like Tony Pauline from draftinsider.net, see going on day two of the draft.

To get a better understanding of the type of player and person Thomas is, we reached out to him and he was courteous enough to take the time to answer our questions.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get into football? 

BT: I grew up in Spartanburg, S.C., about an hour in between both Clemson and Charlotte. I have four older sisters, and grew up in a household of women. Although I was brought up by women, I’ve always loved the sport of football. Having a lot of cousins that were involved in sports, I wanted to be like them. In elementary school I would play backyard football with all the older high school kids in our local playground.

Q. What led you to play for Clemson?

BT: I’ve always watched Clemson football. Being so close to the university, I had a lot of friends that were either South Carolina fans or Clemson fans. So when they offered me a scholarship I was pretty excited about the opportunity even before I had the chance to take an official visit. Once I experienced the campus and the game-like atmosphere, I was hooked and knew I would be a Tiger.

Q. You squared off against some very talented pass rushers in your time at Clemson. Who was the most challenging player to block and what did you do in the game to keep this player from beating you?

Nov 30, 2013; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) rushes the quarterback against Clemson Tigers guard Tyler Shatley (62) in the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 30, 2013; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) rushes the quarterback against Clemson Tigers guard Tyler Shatley (62) in the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

BT: Probably the most challenging guy I’ve faced my entire career would be Jadeveon Clowney. I had a hard time against him in the 2012 game. He’s a heck of a player. In that game, I tried to do too much. In a way, I would say I beat myself. I would either be too eager on this play, then too anxious on the next. I would worry about him beating me on the outside, while giving up my inside, which in turn he would beat me inside. I definitely learned my lesson facing a type of guy like that. Last year’s game was different. I didn’t let myself think so much. I relaxed and let the game come to me. I allowed him to run up the field, while protecting my inside. Realizing that he had to come through me to get to the ball, I kept my body position in a way to dictate the outcome.

Q. You played left tackle in college and some project you at guard in the NFL. Do you have a preference? 

BT: In high school I played a little bit of everything. Guard and tackle being mainly the two positions from freshman year through junior year. My senior year I played more of a fullback/tight end role. Being recruited however, most schools looked to me to play tackle, including Clemson. So I came in originally as a tackle. I played a little guard in my redshirt sophomore year when we won the ACC. So I don’t have a preference, but I do have a comfort level, however. Since I played the tackle position for the last two years I feel more comfortable playing tackle.

Clemson Tigers offensive tackle Brandon Thomas (63) blocks as running back Andre Ellington (23) carries the ball. Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson Tigers offensive tackle Brandon Thomas (63) blocks as running back Andre Ellington (23) carries the ball. Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Q. Could you even play center?

BT: I believe that I can play all positions on the line, including center. I would learn how to snap first though, but I could do it.

Q. For those of us that didn’t see you play in college, describe your game. Are you a mauler? Finesse player or technician? A little of both?

BT: I believe that I’m a physical player. A physical player that uses his technique to his advantage.

Q. What are your strengths as an offensive lineman, and what is the part of your game you’d like to most improve before the draft?

BT: My strengths are my feet and my hands. I believe that I use both well. I would like to improve on my quick twitch off the ball. I believe that with this improvement to my game, it’ll help me in my run blocking.

Q. In your opinion, what feels better as an offensive lineman–to keep your quarterback clean or to get to the second level and pancake a defender?

BT: Pancaking a defender does feel good; however, I take pride in not letting my quarterback get touched.

Q. What is your favorite thing about playing on the offensive line?

BT: As an offensive lineman we don’t get the credit or the publicity as the other positions. The only thing a lineman can look forward to is hitting somebody and putting them on their back. So for me, just like any other lineman, it’s the physical challenge down there in the trenches.

Clemson Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd (10) celebrates a touchdown with teammate Brandon Thomas (63). Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd (10) celebrates a touchdown with teammate Brandon Thomas (63). Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Q. The Packers may look to the draft this spring to add offensive line talent. How would you feel about playing in Green Bay if the Packers drafted you?

BT: I’ll definitely feel excited about it. The Packers have a great tradition of winning. They have a great fanbase. Great players with incredible abilities. They’re always in the hunt for the playoffs. What’s not to love about the Cheesehead nation.

Q. What kind of player would they be getting? 

BT: To understand what type of football player I am, you first have to understand why I play the game. I do not play football because I am good at it. I play because I have the passion for it. It motivates me, it excites me, but most of all, it completes me.

Q. What would you bring to their team?

BT: I would bring versatility to their offensive line. I possess the skills to play both guard and tackle. The fact that I have the footwork and quick hands that it takes to pass protect as well as my play with a low pad level and hard nose effort it takes to run block illustrates those skills, but it will be more than just my talent and abilities that I’ll bring to the field, I’ll bring my passion for the game. My love for the sport is evident and contagious. I always look to not only encourage teammates to do their best but they can depend on me to always do the same. When you love something the way I love the game it is easy to want to succeed, and that is what I strive for in every practice.

Clemson Tigers offensive tackle Shaq Anthony (76) and offensive linesman Brandon Thomas (63) celebrate beating the Auburn Tigers. Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson Tigers offensive tackle Shaq Anthony (76) and offensive linesman Brandon Thomas (63) celebrate beating the Auburn Tigers. Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Q. What could you learn from veterans like Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang?

BT: There’s always room for improvement. Hopefully, those guys could help me with my game so I can contribute to the team, as well as teach me the intangibles it takes to be successful in the NFL.

Q. Who have been the most influential people in your life?

BT: Other than my mom and my sisters, I would say my high school coach. He taught me everything about the game of football. He instilled the confidence and the belief in myself, but more importantly, he sparked a fire inside me which made me the player I am now.

Q. When you’re away from football, what do you like to do in your free time?

BT: On the side, I like to play a little basketball and go bowling. I also picked up golf this past year. I’m not very good at it, but I’m a competitor so anytime I step on the course I think I’m going to win.

Q. Finally, is there anything else you’d like Packers fans to know about you?

BT: The thing about me that stands out from the others is that I will not only bring my athletic abilities to the team, but I will also aid the team off the field as well. I am a great role model who leads by example in all that I do. I will bring a positive name to the Packers franchise. Through my love for community involvement and passion to excel on the field I will bring a name that will forever be remembered in Packers history. My goal is to make a lasting impression in the NFL and to have my passion and talent for the game forever be remembered in years to come.

 

Film on Brandon Thomas

Brandon Thomas interview at the Senior Bowl

 

Brandon Thomas against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl

 

Watch more film on Brandon Thomas and other draft prospects at draftbreakdown.com.

Topics: Brandon Thomas, Green Bay Packers, NFL Draft

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