ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. Those two names should ring a bell with many NFL, and Broncos, fans as being two of the top tight ends in the last decade.
But aside from terrorizing opposing defenses in the AFC West, the two had another thing in common: they were both basketball players in college.
The Broncos now have a basketball player to call their own. Rookie tight end
Thomas has gotten a fair share of reps with the first-team offense and in just a short while has become a consistent target during red zone team scrimmages. But Thomas isn't yet concerned with his playing time, he just wants to get the playbook memorized.
"I'm just trying to get this offense down," Thomas said. "I'm just trying to be in the right places. There's some great throws by the quarterbacks and some catches. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to contribute to this team as soon as possible whether it's making plays, blocking whatever they need out there."
Despite playing football for only one year in high school prior to his senior year in college, Thomas made the All-Big Sky Conference team last year, catching 29 passes for 453 yards and two touchdowns. Prior to that, Thomas was a four-year letterman with the Vikings' basketball team. He thinks his basketball background helped him gain some athletic skills that he might not have gotten had he stuck with just football.
"I think that in order to play basketball at a Division I level, you have to be a good athlete," Thomas said. "You put yourself in different positions on the basketball court. It teaches you to react to things quickly. I think that's one of the biggest things that translates to the football field."
Thomas has already had a chance to show off his athleticism while being welcomed to the NFL. During Saturday's scrimmage, Thomas caught a pass in the end zone a split second before getting clocked by linebacker
"The best thing about those (big hits) is that you don't really know what happened, but on the ground you're like, 'Man, my head hurts a little bit,'" Thomas said. "I took a good shot and it woke me up a little bit and it let me know that I'm here for camp. The NFL is real."
Thomas looks forward to catching those touchdown passes and taking hits on Sundays, but that time is still at least a month away. Until then, he's going spend every waking moment trying to make himself better.
"Day and night, all day I'm just trying to study that playbook and get it to the point where I come out to practice and not make too many mistakes," Thomas said. "Anytime I'm not on the field, I'm looking in it. When I'm sitting on the training table, if I'm at dinner, every night we get out of here at 9:45 and stay up till midnight, just staying in that thing trying to get it down."
NO QUIT IN GOODMAN
There's no question that last year was difficult for Andre' Goodman.
The veteran cornerback missed eight games in the middle of the season due to injury after starting all 16 games the previous two seasons. Sitting out was tough for the 10th-year player, but he's back in full swing this training camp working with the first team alongside fellow veteran
"It was a tough year last year," Goodman said. "I had so much energy in the offseason just trying to keep myself in shape, and this year if I can play 16 games and prove that I'm still a football player, I'm good. I'm just going to give them everything I have."
The 32-year-old admitted that the thought of retirement floated through his head during the long offseason. But he realized that couldn't think of anything else that he would enjoy doing more than playing the game he loves.
"You know what? In the offseason, it's six months and you have so much free time -- everything goes through your head," Goodman said. "I got so comfortable being with my wife and kids, but then you realize I'm a player. I'm nothing else. I like to think I can go off and do something else, but in my heart I'm still a player. Until I'm not, I am. That's how I look at it."