As the 49ers kick off their rookie minicamp on Friday, a select few spoke to the media recently. Third-round pick Ambry Thomas was one of them. At any level, whether it’s pee-wee football or the NFL, confidence is a must if you’re going to excel at cornerback.
It doesn’t take long to see that Thomas exudes confidence.
When Thomas recently spoke, he talked about everything from living in California to what he’d bring to the team. Thomas said he’s loving the environment in the 49ers' facilities and that he’s already feeling at home.
What went through his mind immediately once Thomas was drafted? The same thing as every other person who knows what life is like living in California:
“Immediately once I got the phone call, I was happy, excited. And I thought about everything. California, the taxes, and I started thinking about all that — the cost of living. I
I’m like, ‘Eh, kind of expensive. Very expensive.’ But I’m just grateful for the opportunity, honestly. Skip the cost of living and all that right now. I feel like my play will take care of my pockets. Put it like that.”
When Thomas eventually signs his contract, it’ll be a four-year deal worth $4.7 million. Thomas’s signing bonus is fully guaranteed at $840,616. Thomas may have been selected in the 100s, but he acts as if he was a top-20 pick, and I like that.
The Detroit native spoke about the possibility of suiting up against the Lions for the 49ers season opener on the road. We spoke about Aaron Banks and how he gets to play close to home. Here’s what Thomas said about playing in Detroit:
“For that to be my first game, I’m really excited. I’m really just ready to go out there and showcase what I can do and kind of give Detroit a little something just to show off for my family and the city itself. But we’ve got to put the beatdown on them. Real bad.”
Playing the Lions has to add a level of excitement for Thomas.
Speaking of “real bad,” Thomas also spoke about what it was like to lose 35 pounds while he was in a hospital for over a month as Thomas fought colitis his junior year at Michigan. So we know he’s battled adversity:
“Just looking back on it, I feel like it was one of my greater points in my college career because it really turned on my dog mentality even more. It just lit something up inside of me even more.
Being in that hospital all those days and feeling myself deteriorating as days go by while other people were getting better that were healthy, it wasn’t making me mad but I was feeling some type of way. I just knew that I got back right that I had to do whatever by any means to get back on that field and make plays.”
Making plays was something Thomas brought up on a few occasions Wednesday afternoon. To him, the only thing that’ll slow him down early during his pro career is learning the playbook:
“I’ve got speed and I’m long in the defense we run. If I’m at the nickel or the cornerback spot I can make plays on the ball — make a lot of plays on the ball. Put me in a position to win, I feel like. I’ve just got to get used to the whole playbook, but once I feel like I got that, it’s over. It’s over.”
I recently watched Thomas against Alabama in Michigan’s 2019 bowl game to get a feel for the type of player he could be.
I could see Thomas being the slot corner of the future, based on his game against the Crimson Tide. He played both inside and out, including a few reps at safety. He faced Henry Ruggs, Jalen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith 1-on-1 throughout the game during that game.
Smith got the best of Thomas, though the stat sheet won’t show it. Thomas showed he was aggressive, a willing tackler, and could disrupt the route timing with his press coverage. Those qualities make for a solid nickel cornerback.