Thomas is Oregon’s Black Mamba

Former Los Angeles Crenshaw High School football star De'Anthony Thomas put his name in the Heisman Trophy conversation with his electrifying performance in the 2012 Rose Bowl presented by Vizio./Photo Credit: Corey Cofield

By Dennis J. Freeman

Move over, Kobe Bryant. There’s another Black Mamba in town. His name is De’Anthony Thomas. Bryant has earned that moniker as a quick-strike assassin on the basketball court as an NBA star for the Los Angeles Lakers. Thomas, the freshman wonder for the University of Oregon football team, has been given this billing since he picked the game of football and starred at Los Angeles Crenshaw High School as one of the best prep running backs in the country.

Both Bryant and Thomas call Los Angeles home. But unlike Bryant, who navigated his way to Los Angeles by way of Italy and Philadelphia, Thomas is a homegrown product, who has had to navigate his way in, through and around the gang-infested streets of South L.A. It’s unfair in a lot of ways to compare Thomas to Bryant, who will end up in the basketball Hall of Fame, and will eventually be regarded as one of the best NBA players of the history of the game.

Thomas is just getting started in what promises to be a spectacular career as a football player. To get to iconic Bryant’s stature, Thomas will have to turn the spectacular into a routine ritual over an extended period of time-in college and on the pro level, if he gets there. However, the physical similarities between Bryant and Thomas are somewhat similar.  Both are muscularly and wirily sleek, physical specimen.

Both have the ability to strike daggers in the hearts of their opponents. Both are dangerously feared by their competitors.  Whether it’s swooping to the basket or ruthlessly locking down best player on an opposing team, Bryant has built up and solidified his status as a game-breaker. Thomas, who recorded the fastest time in the nation in 200 meters (20.61) in his senior year at Crenshaw, is a game-changer in a much different way.

Wisconsin, who was defeated by Oregon 45-38 in the 2012 Vizio Rose Bowl, found that out the hard way. There is an old adage that says that speed kills. Thomas doesn’t just have the kind of speed that can kill an opponent’s will; he has the kind of speed that can break their backs unmercifully. And just like the lighting-strike pounce of a Black Mamba snake, the kind of speed Thomas has can come at any time and from any place on the football field.

As Wisconsin learned in its Rose Bowl showdown against Oregon, Thomas can make a team pay dearly with the 10.57 100-meter speed he used to win the CIF Los Angeles Southern Section track meet. Thomas only carried the ball just two times against Wisconsin. That was enough for the Badgers to see because all they could look at was the back of his No.6 jersey each time. And each time, Thomas deflated the Wisconsin’s defense.

The bubble burst the first time when Thomas took a handoff from quarterback Darron Thomas at Oregon’s nine-yard line. Utilizing his world-class speed, Thomas raced to a 91-yard touchdown run, leaving Wisconsin defenders in his dust. He then electrified the Rose Bowl crowd with a 64-yard running score in the second half of the game, leaving more jaws to drop, especially those at USC, which recruited him but lost him to the Ducks.

Two runs, two strikes and two touchdowns. And just like that, Thomas etched his name in the 2012 Heisman Trophy conversation and broke the backs of a prideful Wisconsin football team in his first official trip back home. Talk about a homecoming, Thomas turned it into his own coronation. Kobe Bryant still rule  the sports landscape in Los Angeles. But a young Black Mamba is preparing himself to take over the throne.

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