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'Proved my doubters wrong' - Freshman Daniel Thomas makes Iron Bowl impact
In his Iron Bowl debut, freshman Daniel Thomas made two interceptions and six tackles.
Nov. 26, 2016

By Jeff Shearer

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - On a defense loaded with impact players, true freshman defensive back Daniel Thomas made the biggest impact for Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

Filling in when senior Rudy Ford was injured, Thomas made two interceptions, the first Tiger freshman with two picks in a game since T'Sharvan Bell in the 2010 Outback Bowl against Northwestern.

"Just proved my doubters wrong. Underdog," said Thomas, who relied on Ford's encouragement in the Tigers' 30-12 defeat.

"Rudy was always there the whole time, pushing me on, even though he was hurt." Thomas said. "He wanted to get out there, but every time I made a play, he was pushing me to keep on going, like a real captain. He's pretty quiet, but he's a great leader. He leads on and off the field. I've always looked up to him since we started camp. It was a blessing."

"Daniel Thomas, a true freshman, had an outstanding game," said coach Gus Malzahn. "Two interceptions, made a lot of big tackles. Really stepped up. When you lose one of your impact players, that's tough, but it gave Daniel an opportunity. He played very well."

Both of Thomas' interceptions led to Auburn field goals.

On the first play of the second quarter, Thomas picked off Jalen Hurts' short pass at the Alabama 41. After three Kamryn Pettway runs, Daniel Carlson's 52-yard field goal pulled Auburn to within 4, 10-6.



"The play happened so fast," Thomas said. "I just saw the ball and just went for it. I was just playing my coverage. Just saw the ball and I broke on it."

Two possessions later, Thomas struck again, intercepting Hurts at the Auburn 30, then showing off some impressive moves on a 29-yard return to the Alabama 41. The Tigers drove 19 yards on 5 plays with Carlson's third field goal cutting Auburn's deficit to 10-9.

"I was just, 'Go, go, go,'" Thomas said. "I was just trying to keep on going. Trying to score."

Thomas continued to make his mark in the second half, finishing with 6 tackles, 5 solos.

"It was amazing. I was happy just to be out there and play hard," Thomas said. "Like Coach was saying all week. Just on to the next play. That's how I played."

The freshman earned praise from his veteran teammates on defense.

"That was exciting," said linebacker Tre' Williams. "That kid has a really bright future. For his first Iron Bowl, being a freshman, that was something special. I'm very happy for him.

"That lets you know you don't have to be the biggest guy; you don't have to be the fastest. Just come out and play hard and the coaches will give you an opportunity."

"I'm really happy for Daniel," said defensive end Carl Lawson. "We've been talking about Daniel for weeks. He's been a good player. I'm so excited for his future. I really appreciate him helping us stay in the game."

Thomas is proof that a player's star-ranking in high school does not determine the impact he'll make in college.

"A lot of people didn't expect me to play, but hard work and effort, like Coach Steele always preached, keep going," he said. "Next play."

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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