Unexpected Duck flies from flock for NFL Draft
January 14, 2012, 5:54 pm
While all of the buzz seemed to be centering around LaMichael James, who most expected to enter the NFL Draft, Kenjob Barner, who gave Ducks fans a sigh of relief that he would be returning next season, the UO announced that Darron Thomas has filed paperwork with the National Football League to enter the 2012 NFL Draft and will forego his final season of collegiate eligibility.
The 6-3, 215-pound Houston, Texas, junior and two-year starter guided the Ducks to a 45-38 win over Wisconsin in this year’s Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO after quarterbacking Oregon to the BCS National Championship game vs. Auburn a year ago.
“I came to this decision on behalf of myself and my family,” Thomas said. “I have a dream of playing in the NFL and I’m going to pursue those dreams.
“I would like to thank everyone in Oregon for all their support and I would thank the coaches for all their help, especially Coach (Chip) Kelly.” Thomas added. “I love my teammates and wish them the best of luck, and am confident they will continue the winning tradition that has been established. Last but not least, I thank all the Oregon fans for their help and support.”
Thomas finished his junior year 11th in the country in passing efficiency, completing 211 of 339 passes for 2,761 yards and a single-season school record 33 touchdowns while throwing only seven interceptions. He helped engineer an Oregon offense that ranked third in the country in scoring (46.1 avg.), fourth in total offense (522.8 avg.) and fifth in rushing (299.2 avg.) despite the Ducks finishing 10th in the Pac-12 Conference in passing yards (223.6 avg.).
“As in all cases, we educate our players with the information we feel will be beneficial to them throughout the process but ultimately, the decision is left up to the players,” Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly said. “I will always support Darron in his decision and want to thank him for everything he has done for this program. He obviously has played a major role in elevating Oregon football to new heights and I wish him well in the future.”
The 2010 second-team all-conference choice ranked third in the Pac-10 in total offense (259.0) as a sophomore, throwing for 2,881 yards and 30 TDs, standing as one of only three players in league history to throw for 30 or more touchdowns in two seasons.
In 31 games as a collegian, the 21-year-old Thomas set a school record with 66 career touchdown passes, ranked second on the school ledger in single-season total offense in 2010 (3,367 yards) and sixth in 2011 (2,967), and sixth on the school’s all-time total offense (6,629) and seventh in career passing yards (5,910) charts.
Thomas’ decision will leave redshirt freshman Bryan Bennett, as well as true freshmen Marcus Mariota and Jake Rodrigues, vying for time at quarterback when the Ducks open spring practice April 3.
Mariota was on the team this season but did not play in 2011 and will be a redshirt freshman in the fall. Rodrigues graduated early from Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif., and began attending classes at Oregon last week. He will have five seasons to complete four years of eligibility.