Fresno State's Phillip Thomas unanimous All-American
Dec 14, 2012 (The Fresno Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Senior strong safety Phillip Thomas became the first unanimous All-American in Fresno State history on Friday when he was selected to the Football Writers Association of America All-America team, one of the five used to determine unanimous selections.
Thomas, who came back from a gruesome leg injury a year ago to lead the bowl subdivision and set a Mountain West Conference single-season record with eight interceptions, already had been selected to the American Football Coaches Association, Sporting News, Walter Camp Football Foundation and Associated Press teams.
"It means a lot," Thomas said. "I'm very appreciative of all the stuff, all the accolades I'm getting, all the notoriety. I just appreciate my teammates because they do it for me, as well as me doing it for them. They deserve the credit, and it's just a good thing for Fresno State football and the city of Fresno to be able to have something like this happen and get people around the nation to notice Bulldog football.
"It puts us on the map, really, and I'm happy to do that for us. It gives the opportunity for everyone that's staying here to be seen by these people around the world. I'm happy about that."
Thomas hinted that more awards could be in store for next season's team.
"Derek (Carr), he's a big guy that's going to do big things. He puts up the stats every year and now that people see Fresno State football, they'll be able to watch out for Derek, be able to watch out for Davante (Adams) and Derron (Smith).
"A lot of these great players that we have here at Fresno State don't get the national publicity, so coming into next year I feel like people are going to start noticing Fresno State football and we'll be on that national scene soon."
Thomas is the third unanimous All-American for the Mountain West, joining Texas Christian defensive end Jerry Hughes (2009) and New Mexico linebacker Brian Urlacher (1999).
Hughes was the Indianapolis Colts' first-round pick in 2010 (31st overall). Urlacher was taken ninth overall by the Chicago Bears in 2000.
Thomas, who was one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award presented to the top defensive back in the nation, has been invited to play in the Jan. 26 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
"Obviously, it is a great indication of the kind of year he had," Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter said. "He worked extremely hard to come back from his injury a year ago. He really took well to the coaching, and (defensive backs coach) Tim McDonald did a great job with him.
"He put in the work and he absolutely produced. He was a guy that sparked our defense with eight interceptions and three scores, so all of these accolades he's getting are very well deserved and for him to be the first unanimous All-American in Fresno State history, I think they picked a great one to do that."
A next logical step could be to see his name and number on the press-box facade at Bulldog Stadium along with six players who have had their jerseys retired -- quarterbacks Kevin Sweeney, Trent Dilfer and David Carr, receiver Henry Ellard, kicker Vince Petrucci and running back Dale Messer.
At the moment, Thomas and other candidates for that honor -- including career leading rusher Robbie Rouse and quarterback Derek Carr -- have a less defined road to that distinction than becoming a unanimous All-American.
There are no set criteria at Fresno State to have a jersey retired, though athletic director Thomas Boeh said one is in development along with an athletic Hall of Fame.
"We'll set the criteria, and we keep setting target dates for when we want to initiate this Hall of Fame Committee," Boeh said.
"But we really are committed to it, and the other thing we need to do, we need to find a home for it, a physical home for it, some place the public can go to see the Hall of Fame."
Dec. 24: 5 p.m. at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu
Records: Bulldogs 9-3, Mustangs 6-6
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