He's been out, but In terms of game impact, Thomas crosses all borders.
Every sports fan with eyes on the game watches harder when he touches the ball.
Every defensive player knows their best isn't good enough when he's in the game.
And every coach wants a player just like him.
He makes the game better. What makes him special?
Wikipedia calls DAT, De’Anthony Thomas, one of the most decorated prep football players to ever come out of Los Angeles. Coming out of LA means more here.
Instead of joining the USC Trojans, a ten minute commute from his neighborhood, Thomas found his future a thousand mile away.
He didn't add to the USC legacy of O.J. Simpson, Charles White, and Reggie Bush. Murder, cocaine, vacated national title and a returned Heisman don't add up as recruiting tools. Besides, he would have been a defensive back, not a game breaking offensive weapon.
If he had the Heisman in mind he probably knows how many defensive backs have won a Heisman compared to running backs and receivers. Charles Woodson is the answer. Thomas could have made it two, but the odds are long.
He came to Oregon to carry the ball. He'd have more to carry in LA.
If you've been to LA and visited the Los Angeles Coliseum, you've seen USC next door. There's no neighborhood in Eugene like that. It's a lifestyle place where getting caught up is normal.
Instead of the 5-Star recruit electrifying Division 1 football from Autzen Stadium, Thomas would have found a different life circling the drain of south central LA.
Oregon was the right choice and he hit the trail to the big time right away, LSU big.
You've heard about the transition from high school to college, then college to the pros. Everything speeds up. Everyone is bigger and stronger.
From his first game DAT showed he can stand with the best. It wasn't his best game, but he left a mark on the mighty SEC after a Duck run at the title the year before.
With Thomas, the Ducks have flown high while the Auburn Tigers limp along. After their Cam Newton inspired 14-0 they've fallen to 8-5, 3-9, and 6-1 with Alabama ahead.
During the same period the Ducks have gone 12-2, 12-1, and 7-0. Call it the DAT-era.
A return against UCLA on Saturday sets the table for a two-billed Duck attack of Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas. As good as everyone played during his sprained ankle absence, the 5-1 Bruins will face a fellow Angeleno with enough gas in the tank to drive them back to the comforts of Westwood.
He knows the way down and the way back.
If Thomas stands his listed size of 5'10", 176 lbs, he's still small for football. There's something about taking big time hits from future NFL linebackers at the second level, let alone the giants on the defensive line, that says anyone De'Anthony's size should find a safer sport. But this young man jumped into the fire with LSU for his first game after high school and hasn’t looked back.
Take away the suspicious leg-whip penalties that haven't been called since, and the fumbles, and you'd never read a story about Oregon and how they still haven't arrived. Who says that about a team fresh off a natty run?
After DAT's first college game Chip Kelly made this observation about LSU:
"They've got a little bit different athlete running around out there right now. Looking at their D-line, standing next to them, walking off the field, they don't look like the kind of guys we see. That's the common trait, the trait you saw in the Auburn game."
Now the Mamba is a little bit different athlete running around out there. The only arrival ESPN sportswriters will note is how many times he shows up in the end zone.
To the voters and computers of the BCS ratings, De'Anthony Thomas spans the gulf between #2 Florida State's .935 and #3 Oregon's .932.