[With the start of training camp just a few weeks away, we are taking a look back at some “under the radar” players from year past. Today I take a look back at the career of dual-threat running back Mike Thomas. While his career with the Washington Redskins only spanned four years, the impact that he left is still being talked about to this day.]
The success that Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris had as a rookie last year had us thinking about the last time the franchise had a rusher who made a big impact as rookie.
The younger generations of Redskins Nation probably aren’t familiar with any, but some older fans may remember a speedster from UNLV by the name of Mike Thomas who was called on to replace aging legend Larry Brown.
While most men would have crumbled under the pressure of being handed the reigns that were held by an icon like Brown, Thomas thrived–right from the start.
The former college All-American was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1975 after posting 919 yards rushing, 483 yards receiving and seven total touchdowns in just 10 starts.
He began his college career at the University of Oklahoma, and on his first touch as a freshman in Sooners’ season opener, Thomas ran for a 90-yard touchdown.
After an injury derailed his freshman season, Thomas ended up transferring to UNLV, where he accumulated 40 touchdowns and 3,149-yards rushing in just two seasons. He set nine school records in 1973 and to this day, still holds the Rebels’ career-rushing record.
John Moser, a former reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, had this to say about Thomas in college, “about the only way to stop Mike Thomas is to mug him the parking lot before the game.”
Thomas was drafted in the fifth round of the 1975 NFL Draft and was an electrifying offensive weapon in his four seasons with the Burgundy and Gold.
In his aforementioned stellar rookie campaign, No. 22 ran for 919 yards and four touchdowns. It was the first time since Larry Brown in 1972 that a Burgundy and Gold tailback rushed for over 900 yards. In only his fourth career game, Thomas ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns against the St. Louis Cardinals–his favorite opponent.
In 1976, he set what was then the franchise’s single-game rushing record with 195 yards against the Cardinals. The performance alone proved that he was one of the best young backs in the league and deserved his first nod into the Pro Bowl.
After only three seasons, Thomas was within striking distance of the franchise’s all-time rushing record trailing only Cliff Battles and Brown, two of the 80 Greatest Redskins, with 2,826 yards.
In his four seasons in Washington, Thomas netted 4,765 yards from scrimmage and 22 total touchdowns. He also moved up to second on the Redskins’ all-time rushing list before being traded in 1979.
The Greenville, TX native had a great football-pedigree having had two older brothers who also played in the NFL.
Alfred Morris may have already proved to be the better runner, but going into his second-year I think we would all like to see him have an impact in the passing game the way Thomas did.
Although it can difficult to compare players from such different eras, it’s always nice to remember some forgotten players from the team’s storied past any chance we get.
Tags: Alfred Morris, Mike Thomas
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