Hard-hitting Syracuse safety draws Rams interest

2013-04-24T02:00:00Z 2013-04-24T04:59:06Z Hard-hitting Syracuse safety draws Rams interestBy Jim Thomas jthomas@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8197 stltoday.com

Out of all the safeties available for consideration in this year’s draft, and there are more than a few, the only one known to make a pre-draft visit to Rams Park is Shamarko Thomas of Syracuse.

Why Thomas? Only the Rams know for sure. Maybe they wanted to get to know him better. Maybe they wanted to get him in front of a greaseboard and gauge his football IQ. Or maybe they just really, really like him.

Thomas’ Rams visit came last week, and he liked what he saw.

“It was fun; it was real fun,” Thomas said. “I met with all the coaches. Defensive coordinator, ‘DB’ coach. Coach (Jeff) Fisher, he’s a great man. I think he’s one of the best coaches that we have right now. He’s just cool.”

At Syracuse, Thomas said the Orange played a left safety/right safety alignment. So sometimes he had free safety-like duties, sometimes strong safety responsibilities. He started a few games at outside linebacker as a freshman and even played some cornerback before settling in at safety.

No matter where he played he displayed head-hunter tendencies. This guy is a tough, physical, big hitter.

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Thomas said. “It’s just my attitude, and from watching old-time players like Ronnie Lott.”

Last season was his best, earning first-team all-Big East honors with a team-high 88 tackles, three forced fumbles and two interceptions. He sometimes plays too aggressively, and that can lead to biting on play fakes.

Thomas, who is from Virginia Beach, Va., made it through college despite a couple of family tragedies. His father died in a motorcycle accident in the summer of 2010. And his mother died of a heart condition, the following year.

“She died in her sleep next to my sister,” Thomas said.

He has four brothers and a sister _ Thomas is the eldest. His siblings now live with his grandmother, and Thomas hopes to help take care of them once he signs his first NFL contract.

“It’s a blessing to have the opportunity,” Thomas said of his pending NFL career.

Where he goes in the draft is anybody’s guess. Projections for him seem to be all over the place. He lit up the Combine with a 4.42-second time in the 40. (Some had him timed as fast as 4.37.) He also did 28 reps in the bench press, with a 40½-inch vertical leap.

But he’s only 5 feet 9 inches on a 213-pound frame and has had concussion and hamstring issues.

As for any Rams interest once the draft starts, Thomas simply says: “If they pick me up, I’m ready to go.”

Follow Jim Thomas on twitter @jthom1

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