HUNTINGTON - At the end of a long week in the battle for a starting cornerback spot, Derrick Thomas made his statement.
Saturday at Marshall's second scrimmage, Thomas was taking his turn with the first unit and covered receiver Demetrius Evans step for step. Rakeem Cato lobbed the ball high, but not high enough.
The man wearing a green No. 37 leaped high and reached higher, coming down with the ball with one hand. That told a few hundred students and Big Green donors why MU coach Doc Holliday wanted the Penn State transfer.
And why Thomas has been welcomed into the Thundering Herd camp.
"He can play. He can definitely play," said receiver Aaron Dobson. "He's got good feet, he's got long arms, too. He can definitely stop on a dime; he's a good cover corner."
The 6-foot, 181-pound Thomas was cleared for action on Aug. 9, and since the time he was eligible to practice in full pads he has pressed Monterius Lovett for the starting job opposite Keith Baxter (coaches say Baxter's spot on the first unit is not safe, but he is having a fine camp).
Thomas is a fourth-year junior who was able to transfer without penalty as a result of the NCAA's severe sanctions against the Penn State program. He has integrated himself with the Thundering Herd well enough to talk trash with Cato.
And back it up.
"Before the scrimmage today, Cato was at the equipment building," Thomas said. "I patted him on the back and said, 'I'm looking forward to you throwing me [an interception] today.' And he said I jinxed him, because the last time I asked him before a practice, 'How many interceptions have you thrown this week?' He said, 'I ain't thrown any all camp, yet.'
"And he threw an interception that day, too. I jinxed him on both."
Thomas is liable to jinx a few more quarterbacks. Should Thomas start, he likely will help form a secondary consisting of 75 percent transfers. Former Boston College players Dominick LeGrande and Okechukwu Okoroha, who have been in Huntington all summer, have worked at first-team safety from the start of camp.
There is good chemistry among those three. Thomas and Okoroha were high school teammates at Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt, Md., and Okoroha often talked to LeGrande about Thomas.
After Saturday's scrimmage, Okoroha tried to downplay his role in luring Thomas to Huntington. LeGrande wasn't buying it.
"Yeah, you did," LeGrande interjected. "Told him this is a great place to be and we need him here, so he's coming here. That's our guy; we can talk to him like that. The chemistry is there.
"You know, this is the perfect place to be. The chemistry's already here; you don't have to make that with a new team. You get here, you just learn the plays, and let's go play football."
Thomas credits Holliday just as much, though. He seems to echo what a few dozen players have said about the third-year coach.