Two years ago, Jordan Thomas was on top of the world. The University of Oklahoma cornerback had five interceptions as a sophomore in 2015 and was being projected by ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay as the best corner in the 2017 draft.
Since then, very little has gone right for him. He played poorly his junior year, passed on coming out early for the ’17 draft, and by his own admission, “didn’t play half as good’’ his senior year.
There also were a few off-the-field incidents. In December 2015, he was arrested for failure to appear in court for a traffic violation. He also was suspended twice for undisclosed team violations.
The following summer, he was arrested again and charged with public intoxication and assault and battery after an incident in a bar. The charges were eventually dismissed, but he definitely had some ‘splainin’ to do before the draft when he was interviewed by the Eagles and other teams.
McShay’s best corner in the 2017 draft ended up going unclaimed in 2018. He eventually signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent.
“At the end of the day, all I needed was a shot,’’ Thomas said Friday after completing his first practice in the Eagles’ three-day rookie minicamp at the NovaCare Complex. “The Eagles have given me that, and I promise I won’t let them down.’’
After his impressive sophomore season, Thomas had 19 passes defensed as a junior, which was fifth among FBS schools. But when he wasn’t knocking passes down, he was getting beaten. He gave up a disconcerting 831 passing yards and seven touchdowns that year.
Last year, he continued to get beaten far too often as the Sooners’ inconsistent defense gave up 35 or more points five times, including an embarrassing 54 in their national semifinal loss to Georgia in the Rose Bowl.
“It’s a game of inches,’’ the 6-foot, 185-pound Thomas said. “You go back and watch all of the games and you’re like, ‘Dang, I barely missed that one,’ or ‘Dang, that was so close.’
“But this is what was supposed to happen to me. I needed to be humbled.’’
Thomas suffered a sprained MCL in early November. He missed four games but returned for the Rose Bowl.
“[The injury] was scary,’’ he said. “A knee is nothing to play with. I could’ve been out a lot longer. I could’ve missed the combine and my pro day and maybe the Eagles wouldn’t have even wanted to sign me.
“Fortunately, I didn’t need surgery and was able to come back and finish the season.’’
Thomas turned heads in March when he broke the NFL Scouting Combine record in the three-cone drill (6.28 seconds).
But he also ran a disappointing 4.64 in the 40, which ranked 52nd among the 57 defensive backs who worked out.
“After the [poor] 40, I was defeated,’’ he said. “But then, once we started doing the football stuff, I turned it back on. That was my favorite drill in training.
“When I finished my [three-cone] rep, I knew it was fast, but didn’t know how fast. When I saw the guy hold the timer behind his head and look off to the side, I said, ‘Yeah, I definitely did something spectacular.’ ’’
But his three-cone time wasn’t nearly enough to overcome his poor play the last two years, or his poor 40 time.
Thomas knew going into the draft that, at best, he might be taken in the sixth or seventh round. At least as an undrafted free agent, he had some say in where he went.
“I didn’t care,’’ he said of not getting drafted. “It was in God’s hands at that point. I can only control what I can control. At that point, I was, well, I can’t control where I get drafted.
“But I can control how prepared I am when I go in there. So I just worked my butt off.’’
After his disappointing junior season, Thomas said he was not only upset with the way he played but also with the way he carried himself. He said that when he’d get beaten, he’d often brush it off by smiling.
“That was me trying to deal with it internally, but not show how upset or frustrated I was,’’ he said.
Unfortunately, to many others, it gave the impression that he wasn’t upset at all.
“My coach would say, ‘You can’t be doing that,’ ’’ he said. “He’d say, ‘It makes you look like you don’t care.’ And I’d tell him I’m only doing that so that I don’t freaking cry or rage.
“After that, I just let my emotions show. Now, if something happens, if I get beat, I’m going to let you know that I’m angry. I’m going to let you know that that play made me upset.
“But you have to have a short memory. You have to forget it and move on.’’