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Roc Thomas Describes Competitive Fire, Willingness to Multitask

Posted May 9, 2018

EAGAN, Minn. — Roc Thomas is ready to roll.

The running back who joined Minnesota as an undrafted free agent on April 30 soaked up as much as he could at last weekend’s rookie minicamp.

He dived into the playbook and took notes, explaining in an interview that he loves to learn by doing and isn’t hesitant to do a lot.

Thomas, who was named Alabama’s 2013 Mr. Football, began his college career at Auburn before transferring to Jacksonville State and becoming a multipurpose offensive threat for the Gamecocks.

He played running back, outside and slot receiver, earning more opportunities by his senior season when he rushed for 1,065 yards and 13 touchdowns on 178 carries and added 244 yards on 21 receptions. Thomas ranked 10th in FCS in rushing touchdowns and yards per carry (5.98) in 2017.

“I kind of put that on myself, to learn what the o-line was doing so I could know where I needed to be in my run game and stuff like that to know where I need to fit in,” Thomas said. “I got the playbook, wrote down the script and was immediately trying to figure out what the assignment was on each play.

“I would write it out three different times for memorization, but I do better when I’m doing it on the field, getting more reps and visualization,” he added. “Seeing it in film helps me out a lot, but that’s where it’s got to start, and I feel like that helped me out a lot.”

With Jerick McKinnon’s departure in free agency to San Francisco, the Vikings have an opening for a multitasking running back.

Minnesota is excited by the way Dalvin Cook is progressing from a torn ACL, and Latavius Murray is back after making a substantial impact in his first season with the Vikings. Mack Brown played special teams in one game for Minnesota last season after signing on Oct. 30. C.J. Ham switched from running back to fullback a year ago.

“That’s the good thing about it,” Thomas said. “I get to come here and compete, knowing I have a chance to work with those guys in the future. It’s something that makes you work harder.”

In addition to Thomas, the Vikings also signed Mike Boone as an undrafted free agent before minicamp and brought in Johnny Stanton this week, a former quarterback at Nebraska and UNLV who is listed at fullback.

Vikings.com’s Lindsey Young recently checked in with Boone, who had a dazzling performance at Cincinnati’s Pro Day after not receiving a combine invitation.

Thomas ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds (13th among RBs at the combine), had a vertical of 35.5 inches (tied for ninth among RBs) and broad jumped 10 feet, 5 inches (fourth among RBs).

His competitive fire was stoked long ago when he was a candidate for Alabama’s 2012 Mr. Football, an award claimed by Jeremy Johnson that year and in the past by the likes of T.J. Yeldon (2011), Julio Jones (2007), Andre Smith (2005), JaMarcus Russell (2002) and Cadillac Williams (2000).

“I got beat out by Jeremy Johnson, who was an outstanding quarterback in high school,” Thomas said. “He’s a great guy. Big ups to him.

“I got the [2013] Mr. Football, and that kind of set me up,” Thomas added. “I already knew I was going to Auburn, so I was like, ‘OK, I’m in there, I’m going to go in, compete my [tail] off and try to win a starting spot. I got in there and everything was good.”

Thomas had 43 rushes in each of his first two seasons at Auburn, totaling 475 yards and three scores on the ground in a crowded backfield before transferring for an expanded role.

“The journey has been great. I wouldn’t take anything back, but it just wasn’t the place that I wanted to be and wasn’t the system I wanted to be in,” Thomas said. “I transferred and got into a better system where I was getting the ball more and I was [playing] more positions.

“I was just wanting the ball in my hands, not greedy, but, ‘I can make plays,’ type of stuff,” Thomas said. “You want to have the ball in the best players’ — plural — hands all of the time.”