Anyone who watched Oregon football last year knows that even on one of college football’s fastest teams, De’Anthony Thomas stood out as quite possibly the Ducks fastest individual player. The 5’9 true freshman was electrifying at times, and a straight blur at others, with no game more indicative of that than this January’s Rose Bowl. Thomas- again, only a freshman- finished the afternoon with just two carries, but tallied 155 yards rushing in a wild win over Wisconsin. Yes, you read that correctly. De’Anthony Thomas averaged 77.5 yards per carry in the Granddaddy of them all. And the SEC thought they had speed, huh?
Of course it’s one thing to be fast on the football field, and quite another to be fast period, the latter of which Thomas tried to prove this weekend. Thomas made his debut for the Ducks track team Saturday, at the Oregon Twilight Meet, against several other Pac-12 and local schools.
And with it, there were two ways to make his debut: Given the insane standard Thomas has set for himself on the football field, Saturday could’ve been seen as a bit of a disappointment. Then again, given that he’s barely practiced with the track team at all since arriving in Eugene, it could also be considered a rousing success.
Thomas’ first event was the 100m, and despite jumping out to an early lead, finished third behind Washington’s Ryan Hamilton, and Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton. Thomas’ time was a 10.65, with Hamilton winning the race at 10.51 (And by the way, Wheaton’s name should sound familiar to college football fans as well. He was an honorable mention All-Pac 12 wide receiver for the Beavers last year, and led the team with 986 yards on 73 catches). Thomas also finished second in the 200m, behind fellow Oregon Duck Ryan Berry. Berry’s 21.24 topped the field, while Thomas was just a shade behind at 21.60.
However, like the end of his debut college football season, Thomas went out a winner Saturday afternoon as well. Running the anchor leg of Oregon’s 4x100m relay team, Thomas helped lead the Ducks to a win in 40.79 seconds. Their time was over a second better than the second place finisher, Lane Community College, which ran a 41.92.
What’s maybe most incredible is that Thomas did all this despite barely practicing with the team during the spring. Oregon just wrapped up spring football last weekend, and given that Thomas was racing against competitors who compete in track year round, it really does show not just how naturally talented he is, but how much better he could become with a little time and coaching.
As a matter of fact, what’s may be most incredible thing about Thomas’ debut Saturday is that it could be seen by some as a bit of a disappointment. Remember, this is the same kid who ran the fastest 200m of any high school track athlete in the country in 2010 at 20.61, meaning that at least in one event, he has the potential to shave a full second off what he did Saturday.
And he’ll have the chance next weekend, where he’ll compete against the best and the brightest on the West Coast, at the Pac-12 championships. What’s worth mentioning here though, is that if you’re a college football fan, it might be checking out as well. In addition to Thomas and Wheaton, remember that USC All-American receiver Marquise Lee, and a few other Trojans football players have been running track this spring as well.
Which begs the question: With college football officially hitting a slow period, who knew that the track might be where all the action is?
For all his opinion, insight and articles on college football, follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.