The annual Pro Timing Day for the Texas Longhorns was the culmination of 11-12 weeks of training for former cornerback Duke Thomas and it paid off with a performance that NFL Draft analyst Gil Brandt said "exceeded the expectations" of scouts in attendance.
Thomas was able to record several personal records in his testing, was recorded as running the 40-yard dash between 4.37 and 4.41 seconds, and impressed the NFL personnel folks in attendance.
"I've been getting great feedback," Thomas said at the time. "The guy who worked me through my drills told me I did a great job. Hopefully, I get some calls soon."
The verification of his high-level athleticism should help to make up for his lack of ideal size at 5'10. The Copperas Cove product and former high school quarterback can also fall back on solid senior film. When the coaches moved Thomas to the nickel back position during fall camp and displaced John Bonney, the spring starter there, it was a move that seemingly didn't make much sense for the 178-pounder.
At times, Thomas struggled with the physical demands of the position, especially when forced to deal with bigger blockers in the run game. However, Thomas eventually grew into the role, was effective as a blitzer in a strong performance against Oklahoma, and ultimately displayed the versatility to play other positions in the secondary, even making some appearances as a dime linebacker.
For the season, he finished with 58 tackles, five passes defensed, three tackles for loss, and one interception.
He also provided valuable leadership at the cornerback position for freshmen like Holton Hill, Davante Davis, and Kris Boyd.
"Usually you have a problem when you bring in a group of freshmen and then you have a senior, because they don't want to communicate," head coach Charlie Strong said last fall. "But Duke has always been there for them, and they always feel like Duke could do no wrong. They would be watching tape and say, 'watch how Duke does it.'"
In the NFL Draft process, teams understandabby value prototypical physical measurables. Thomas doesn't benefit from that in the height or weight department because of his slight frame, but his testing results, versatility, and leadership qualities could make him appealing enough to get drafted. At the worst, he should have an excellent chance of at least making a practice squad.
With the current state of draft prospects coming out of Texas, that counts as a success story.