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It was just a few days ago that the news of Detroit Lions receiver Jameson Williams throwing a punch “at a rookie teammate” went viral. Williams, the 12th pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, had been struggling during the first week of camp.
The rookie teammate the punch was directed at was former UAB cornerback Starling Thomas. None of the stories reporting on the altercation went in-depth on Thomas. They probably should’ve.
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The Detroit Lions had eight selections in last April’s draft, including six picks in the top 100. They used none of those choices on Thomas, rather they signed him immediately after the draft.
Thomas had options to sign with numerous teams, but he settled on Detroit, as the cornerback-needy Lions offered him a great opportunity to make an active roster.
And early in camp, it looks as though that’s exactly what Thomas may end up doing.
After a successful career at UAB which included 21 PBUs his final two seasons at the school, Thomas stood out during three days of Shrine Bowl practice in January. Many believed he deserved an invitation to the Combine, yet it never arrived.
With a bit of a chip on his shoulder, Thomas was the star of pro day at UAB, timing 4.38 seconds in the 40, touching 37.5 inches in the vertical jump and even completing 14 reps on the bench press.
Thomas has shown much of that athleticism and prowess in the opening weeks of Lions camp. Executive vice president and general manager Brad Holmes is a big fan of Thomas and has been singing the praises of the rookie corner, who has been super feisty and competitive in camp, which is part of the reason for the altercation with Williams.
What led to the Starling Thomas vs Jameson Williams fight?
Tensions between Thomas and Williams in Monday’s practice were high from the get-go. Thomas called out Williams during drills then the cornerback proceeded to knock away a pass directed at the Lions first selection of the 2022 draft. The response from Williams was a punch thrown in the direction of Thomas.
People in the facility say Thomas really wants it; he doesn’t back down to anyone and is the first guy at practice then the last one to leave.
Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, a former first-round draft pick at cornerback, called Thomas “raw” yet also tossed several compliments his way.
Glenn pointed out the physicality and competitiveness of Thomas as well as his athleticism. There’s a real opportunity for Thomas to make the Lions’ active roster, especially with projected starter Emmanuel Moseley still not 100 percent healthy. The undrafted rookie is presently fighting to be the team’s fifth defensive back, and Detroit is relying on Thomas to be a gunner on special teams.
It’s a matter of Thomas translating the ability he’s displayed during practice onto the field once the preseason opens against the New York Giants on August 11. If he’s able to do that, people in Detroit tell me they would be surprised if Thomas is not on the active roster come Week 1.
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