FAYETTEVILLE — Former Arkansas defensive tackle Robert Thomas didn’t get to finish out his senior season after suffering a broken leg last October.
But the season-ending injury didn’t keep Thomas from receiving an invitation to attend the NFL’s most prestigious pre-draft event.
Thomas will board a flight for Indianapolis today, where he will be one of 335 pro football hopefuls participating in the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine at the Lucas Oil Field. Thomas, who is from Muskogee, Okla., was one of four Arkansas players invited to attend in the NFL’s high-profile job fair, joining center Travis Swanson, defensive end Robert Thomas and kicker Zach Hocker.
“It’s something as a kid you always dream about,” Thomas said. “And now it’s here.”
Thomas was especially grateful for the invitation after his senior season was cut short by a broken leg suffered in Arkansas’ 52-7 loss to South Carolina. He had been one of Arkansas’ most consistent defensive players at the time of his injury, finishing the season with 31 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks and 6 tackles for losses in a starting role.
He spent the rest of the season watching from the sideline, but was recognized by the Razorbacks for his leadership. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema selected players to wear Thomas’ No. 98 jersey for each game the rest of the season.
Thomas has been recovering from the injury the past few months and is preparing for the next step in his football career. He said rehabilitation is going well. In fact, Thomas believes his leg has “completely healed.”
“It’s great to get out there on the field and getting to run around, getting to cut, getting to plant,” Thomas said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Thomas isn’t ready to compete with other defensive linemen during drill work at the NFL Combine, though. He’ll be limited this week, planning to participate in the bench press and standard measurements in Indianapolis.
His former teammates will be working out. Hocker is scheduled to take the field with kickers, punters and special teams players today. Swanson will work out at Lucas Oil Field with the rest of the offensive linemen Saturday. Smith and the defensive linemen will be on the field for drill work Monday.
Thomas expects to participate in some drills when Arkansas holds its on-campus pro day March 5. He also has a private workout tentatively scheduled for April, which will give NFL teams a closer look at his speed, strength and agility.
His time in Indianapolis won’t be wasted, though. Thomas will have plenty of chances to interview with pro football personnel as he tries to show NFL teams he’s worthy of being drafted later this spring.
“It’s going to be big just getting to meet up with them,” Thomas said. “Them being able to talk to me, me being able to talk to them. I think that will help me out a lot.”