NFL teams weren't impressed. That might be because of how Thomas performed on the vertical jump at the scouting combine, which was not very well at all. In fact, Thomas recalls jumping a mediocre 28½". You could hear the pencils scribble, scribble, scribble the end of his career. "Hell, I tried to tell them about the kid," says Tech coach Spike Dykes. "But if your guy isn't six-two, they don't even want to talk about it."
The Dolphins risked a fifth-round pick. "I just hoped he'd make it on special teams," says Johnson. But then in training camp Thomas started making like Mike Singletary. In Miami's opener he knocked out New England Patriots wideout Shawn Jefferson so cold that when Jefferson came to, he mentioned his high school coach's name. In a recent practice Thomas rocked rookie running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar, who asked for nothing more than the rest of the afternoon off. All of a sudden this kid who shares an apartment with equally abridged rookie free-agent linebacker Larry Izzo ("People think we're agents," says the 5'9" Izzo), this no-name who keeps his ties tied because he can't make a knot, is the hottest thing in Miami this side of stone crabs.
The other day local radio host Joe Rose invited Thomas and Izzo to a Fort Lauderdale eatery for a free meal. They couldn't believe their luck. But when they walked into the restaurant that night, people were spilling out the front door. Thomas figured the wait for a table was going to be ridiculous. Then he realized that everyone was there for them, particularly him.
It is almost too much for him to believe. "Man, sometimes I think about it, and I don't believe it," Thomas says. "I'm playing against Chris Warren! Jerome Bettis! I mean, you watch them on TV, and then you're out there in the game with them! I've got posters of these guys on my wall!"
Looking at him, you've got to admit that the whole thing is a little hard to swallow. In a nightclub the other night Thomas and Izzo were talking to four head-snapping models. Hard as our heroes tried, the models wouldn't believe they were NFL linebackers. They guessed ankle tapers or agents. Finally Zach took out his wallet and flashed the clincher—his Dolphins VIP at Hooters card.
"They still didn't buy it," sighs Izzo.
Ladies, three words of advice: Watch your ankles.