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Steelers select S Shamarko Thomas in 4th round

Posted Apr 28, 2013

2013 NFL DRAFT - Steelers Fourth Round Selection

SHAMARKO THOMAS
Strong Safety
Syracuse University Orange
5-9 - 217
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Ocean Lakes High School
4th Round – 111th Overall

CAREER NOTES
Thomas started 39-of-48 games at strong safety for Syracuse, posting 263 tackles (177 solos) with four sacks for minus 35 yards and 16.5 stops for losses of 55 yards…Gained 27 yards on two interception returns and deflected four other tosses…Caused four fumbles and recovered three others.


2012 SEASON
Thomas was named All-American third-team by The NFL Draft Report and the team co-captain was a consensus All-Big East Conference first-team selection, in addition to earning Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I All-Star recognition…Started all 13 games, as he led the team with a career-high 88 tackles (62 solos), adding a 6-yard sack and 3.5 stops for losses of 9 yards…Ranked third in the league with three forced fumbles and had one fumble recovery…Gained 27 yards on the first two interceptions for his career…In the Northwestern clash, he tallied two tackles, including a sack for a loss of six yards, and forced a fumble...Recorded seven tackles, including six solo and one tackle for a loss of one yard, and recorded his first career interception vs. Southern California... Notched six tackles, including two solo vs. Stony Brook...At Minnesota, he registered a season-high nine tackles, including six solo tackles and then tied his season-high nine tackles which included seven solo tackles and one for a loss of one yard vs. Pittsburgh... At Rutgers, he tallied six tackles, including two solo and then earned a spot on the Big East Weekly Honor Roll for his effort vs. Connecticut, which included four solo tackles, one forced fumble, and one interception, which he returned 27 yards...At South Florida, he notched a team-high nine tackles, including six solo, and recovered a fumble that set up a touchdown...At Cincinnati, he again earned spot on the Big East Weekly Honor Roll for his career-high 14 tackles, including 10 solo, and forced a fumble...Had six solo tackles vs. Louisville and at Missouri, the safety recorded six tackles, including four solo, followed by a Temple contest where he posted six tackles, including five solo...At the New Era Pinstripe Bowl vs. West Virginia, he notched four tackles, including two solo and 0.5 for a loss of one yard.


2011 SEASON
Thomas was named All-Big East second-team by The NFL Draft Report, as he ranked third on the squad with 67 tackles (47 solos) in 10 starting assignments, adding three stops for losses of five yards, three pressures and a pass deflection…In the Wake Forest tilt, he had 10 tackles, including five solo...Collected six tackles, including five solo and one for a loss of one yard vs. Rhode Island… At USC, he made seven tackles with four solo stops…At Tulane, he recorded four tackles and had one pass break up...Added five tackles, including four vs. West Virginia and totaled eight tackles, including six solo vs. Syracuse…At Connecticut, he made seven tackles, including four solo, posting posted six tackles, including four solo in the South Florida contest and made six tackles, including five solo and one for a two-yard loss vs. Cincinnati...At Pittsburgh, he was in on eight tackles, including seven solo.


2010 SEASON
Thomas started nine of the 13 games he appeared in at strong safety…Ranked fourth on the team with 67 tackles (38 solos) that included two sacks for minus 19 yards and 3.5 stops for losses of 21 yards…Deflected three passes and advanced a fumble recovery three yards.


2009 SEASON
A member of ESPN.com’s All-Big East Conference freshman team, Thomas played in 12 games, starting seven contests – vs. Louisville, Rytgers and Connecticut as a strong safety; vs. Maine at right cornerback; and vs. West Virginia, Akron and Cincinnati at left outside linebacker…Registered 41 tackles (30 solos), a 10-yard dasck and 6.5 stops for losses of 20 yards…Also caused and recovered a fumble.


HIGH SCHOOL
Thomas attended Ocean Lakes (Virginia Beach, Va.) High School, playing football for head coach Chris Scott…Was a teammate of current Syracuse defensive end Brandon Sharpe… Was a two-sport standout, excelling in track and football…Led the team with 77 tackles and five interceptions as a junior…As a senior, Thomas was named All-State, All-Region and All-Tidewater first-team, as the two-time All-District selection would go on to set school records in career tackles, interceptions and defensive touchdowns…In his final campaign, he recorded a team-high 102 tackles, six interceptions, 11 pass deflections and one blocked field goal as a team captain, leading the squad to a 12-1 record on the way to garnering squad defensive MVP honors…Concluded his gridiron prep career by playing for the United States team that won the 2009 IFAF Junior World Championship…In track, Thomas earned All-State honors competing in the 100-meter dash and as the anchor of the 4 x 100 relay that placed seventh in Virginia.


PERSONAL
Child and Family Studies major, enrolled in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics…Born Shamarko Lanell Thomas in February, 1991…Resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia.



* AUDIO: Shamarko Thomas Conference Call


Shamarko Thomas Conference Call Transcript

Was this a team you were hoping to eventually take you?                                                                                                                       
I’m definitely glad they picked me up. I had a great visit. I loved the defensive coaches. I am blessed.

As far as playing strong or free safety, it sounds like Coach Lake might start you off at strong, and then you would play everywhere:
I will play anywhere they want me. I just want to be on the field. I want to help out the Steelers.

Can you talk about how you played in the USC game?
It was a great game, playing against Robert Woods and Matt Barkley. I knew that I was going to have to go out and compete. I went out and played hard each and every down. I played corner in the nickel package. I just came up and hit every time.


* VIDEO: Defensive Backs Coach Carnell Lake Press Conference 



Secondary Coach Carnell Lake Press Conference Transcript

Is this a guy the Steelers like?
It is. Shamarko is an outstanding football player. I think if he had two more inches he would have been in the first round in my opinion; that’s how highly I think of this young man. He has size, he has speed, and he has strength. He is very aware on the field. Not only can he play safety, but he can also get up there and play man-to-man on the slot receiver. He has played nickel, and he has played corner at times. He is a very versatile defensive back. I think he is not only going to do well for our secondary, but I think he is going to do well for the special teams as well.

Will his size be a disadvantage?
I don’t think so. I am not worried about his size at all. The kid has a 40-inch vertical. That kind of explosiveness gives him great range when it comes to making plays.

Where do you see him on the field? Safety? Corner?
I see him playing safety. The great thing about this young man is if you were in a pinch and you didn’t want to put the nickel package out there and you wanted him to play man-to-man on the slot, he could do it. He has done it in big games already against some of the receivers that have been drafted in the first two rounds, and he shut them down. That is the kind of safety I like. That is the kind of safety that the Steelers are looking for. Not only will he cover well, but he will hit you and hit you hard.

Do you see him playing strong safety?
Right now, I think so. I think he is capable of playing both. In our defensive package, our system, the safeties are required to play both anyways. It is really not much of an issue.

What concerns did you have about his concussion history?
The way the game is played is the way he plays the game. He has had concussions before and they haven’t been an issue with the medical staff. As you know, our safeties that are currently playing on our team have had issues. It comes with the territory back there because of the distances and the speed at which these guys play. I don’t see it as an issue. He is not a head hunter per se,  he just makes good strong tackles. Most of his tackles when you watch him, he is wrapping up with his arms and his shoulders so I do like that part about it. I don’t think we have a concern about him just leading with his head all the time.

He was kind of a fourth-rounder for a while and then he shot way up the draft board, then he slipped back down. Why do you get the vibe that he was kind of on a roller coaster ride in terms of how the scouts projected him?
I don’t know why other teams are afraid of him. I am only speculating, but I think they are afraid of two inches because he has everything else. If the kid was 5’11” it wouldn’t have been an issue. He would have probably been in the first two rounds in my opinion.

How do you get a rookie on the filed in this system?
I think the biggest challenge is really for me to communicate as simply as possible as I can to all of our defensive backs. That’s my job. My job is to get him ready. I think since I’ve been here, going on my third year, it hasn’t really been that much of an issue. We got Cortez Allen  ready his first year. Keenan [Lewis] was struggling and I got him ready to go and he was productive as ever. I wish we could have kept him. I don’t think this will be a problem with this young man. The reason why I don’t think our scheme will be an issue for him, especially after a year under his belt, is because he’s played so many positions for Syracuse. So he hasn’t been pigeonholed in one position. He’s played multiple positions and what that tells me is the kid has some intelligence because you can’t just switch a guy from safety in a deep path to safety in the box to nickel-back to corner and him not knowing what he’s doing. So I like that flexibility that this kid has. 

Do you think that there’s truth to the idea that the system Dick LeBeau runs is so complex that it’s difficult to adjust to?
I think that on the outside looking in there’s a lot of different packages that LeBeau uses but when you really break it all down, it’s kind of all the same. I think it’s going to take some adjustment. I think for any defensive back coming in there’s a language or a terminology adjustment, that’s the biggest thing. That will be one of the issues that we’ll try to overcome as soon as he gets here. 

Is Ike Taylor healthy now?
I’ve talked with Ike and Ike has been in the building recently and Ike looks as good as he’s ever looked. Ike has always been in great shape, so I don’t have an issue with Ike at all.

Do you remember a game or two specifically that jumped out at you in terms of Shamarko covering big receivers?
Absolutely. If you look at the USC game, when Syracuse played USC, I noticed that when I was watching film on Shamarko that he was in the nickel position covering Robert Woods, who was drafted in the second round. I said, “Well you play the nickel also.” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Well how come you were out wide playing Woods at the corner position. Did you play corner?” He said. “No, it was still the nickel, but our coaching staff just wanted me to match up wherever he went.” And I thought that was really impressive. Why would you have your strong safety covering one of the better receivers in the draft man-to-man throughout the whole game? Woods had a very hard time getting off the jam with this kid. Not only that, but Sharmarko went on and picked it one time when Woods ran down the seam. For me that was almost a game-changer. Sealed the deal in my opinion.   

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