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Thomas Brings Big-Play Ability to L.A.

Posted May 17, 2016

Rookie WR Mike Thomas showed a penchant for going up and making contested catches in college at Southern Miss.

Following their blockbuster trade up to No. 1 overall, the Rams entered the 2016 NFL Draft with only five picks in the seven-round event. But a trade back from No. 113 to No. 117 brought Los Angeles No. 206 from Chicago. And that could turn out to be a move with long-lasting, positive consequences.

The Rams finished out this year’s draft by picking up their fifth offensive player, wide receiver Mike Thomas. Known a strong outside threat who can stretch the field vertically, Thomas finished his 2015 season at Southern Miss with 71 receptions for 1,391 yards and 14 touchdowns. That’s an average of 19.6 yards per catch, illustrating his penchant for big plays.

“That’s exactly it. Obviously, he probably was on ESPN a couple times for top 10 plays, at least one Saturday in the fall,” general manager Les Snead said. “The La. Tech catch for sure.”

Snead’s referring to a reception Thomas made in late November, as Southern Miss defeated Louisiana Tech, 58-24, to clinch the Conference-USA West division title. Thomas had seven receptions for 162 yards and one special touchdown catch.

With just over 10 minutes left in the second quarter, Thomas made an Odell Beckham Jr.-esque one-handed grab in the end zone to give Southern Miss a 21-3 lead. It was a play that undoubtedly put Thomas on more teams’ radar.

“That play, my quarterback Nick Mullens, he gave me the look,” Thomas said during rookie orientation. “The team was blitzing anyway, so I knew it was coming to me. And I just told him, ‘Just throw it anywhere — I’m going to go get it.’ And he threw it out of my frame, and I just stretched my hand out and grabbed it.

“People were like, ‘Dang, are you surprised that you caught it?’” Thomas continued. “I was like, ‘No, I catch a lot of balls one-handed every day.’ So that was nothing new to me. It just happened in the game. And it was on TV.”

According to head coach Jeff Fisher, Thomas has the ability to uncover and make contested catches. Fisher said for some receivers, every pass is contested because they can’t get open.

“In his case, he gets open, but he can make the plays out of frame,” Fisher said. “So he’s got a chance. We’re looking forward to watching him compete against our defensive backs.”

Thomas is the kind of player who always looks like he’s having fun on the field. From celebrating touchdowns to dancing during warmups, Thomas carries himself in a way that shows his passion for the game.

“That comes from Chicago — that’s that Chicago swagger right there,” Thomas said. “Just coming from the city of Chicago, I just love to have fun.

“In high school, our football program wasn’t big. We didn’t have a lot of students, fans — none of that,” Thomas added, noting many times there were only 20 people at their games. “I still like to have fun while I’m playing. So that’s where the swagger comes from.”

As Thomas continues in the offseason program, he’s looking to master the L.A. offense as quickly as he can. After that, he feels everything will take care of itself.

“My first goal is to get the playbook down pat so I can play as fast as I can,” Thomas said. “That’s what I’m aiming for — just learning the playbook as fast as I can so once I learn the playbook, and play it fast, I know I’m going to make the team. I’m confident.”