During his time at Syracuse, rookie safety Shamarko Thomas recorded over 260 tackles, two interceptions, and four quarterback sacks. Thomas was selected in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft where the Pittsburgh Steelers traded the Cleveland Browns their 2014 3rd round pick to snag Thomas. Steelers N Stuff was lucky enough to have a quick chat with the rookie this past week.
SNS: Rookies always talk about the big difference between college and the pros. After going through your first training camp, what can you tell us about that transition and what surprised you the most?
Thomas: “How fast the game is [surprised me]. You think college is fast, but here it’s on another level – the speed and the communication.”
Thomas hopes to add to the great history of defense in Pittsburgh. From Jack Lambert to Troy Polamalu, the Steelers always seem to put together a great defense. Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau, has added to that defense with his great 3-4 defensive scheme.
SNS: The Pittsburgh Steelers have a history of great defense. Are you familiar with the history and what’s it been like learning under guys like Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, and your defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau?
Thomas: “It’s a blessing. You’ve got a hall of famer coaching you (from the sidelines) and on the field, because Troy is going to be a Hall of Famer. It’s a blessing just to learn from them. I’m trying to pick their minds for everything. They call me ‘Headache’ because I ask so many questions [Laughs].”
The preseason was Thomas’ first chance to show the staff why they drafted him, and he did not disappoint. Thomas was solid in all four games and proved to be quality depth for the defense in the secondary.
SNS: This preseason, you recorded 16 tackles and a forced fumble. What is your personal analysis of how you did during those four games?
Thomas: “I think I did well, but in my mind I’ve got to get better. I just want to learn from Troy and Ryan and get myself better for the regular season.”
SNS: What are some things you do well and some things you still need to work on?
Thomas: “I think I did well on my tackling because I feel that just comes naturally. Overall, I want to be a better safety – read my keys and just learn the whole playbook. Coach LeBeau’s playbook is kind of hard so as a rookie it can be hard to get everything down. I want to get better at communicating on the field and learning my playbook.”
Thomas had big responsibilities during his years in college, and that was raising his family. When both of Thomas’ parents passed away within 9 months apart, Thomas took over the household and has continued to stay motivated through it all. Day-by-day, Thomas pushes to be great.
SNS: The hardships of your life have been well documented. Through it all, you are able to keep a positive outlook and succeed. What advice would you give others in dealing with similar trials and tribulations?
Thomas: “I’m a Christian man so I believe that God does everything for a reason. You just have to stay motivated and use all of your struggles as motivation, not as downfalls.”
As Shamarko Thomas continues to stay motivated and prayed up, we hope the same for the Steelers season. Thomas has already made an impact this season with two tackles in the season opener. He saw action in the secondary and special teams. Big thanks to Shamarko and the Pittsburgh Steelers Organization for allowing this interview to take place.