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Michigan safety Dymonte Thomas comments on the upcoming season

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Ann Arbor — Growing up the son of a Marine, Dymonte Thomas learned early the importance of setting an example and being a leader.

Thomas, entering his senior season at Michigan, will assume the role that Jarrod Wilson left — the leader in the secondary, making the calls and the checks and getting everyone lined up.

It’s a role he seems to relish.

“My dad was in the Marines, so he was a leader,” Thomas said Thursday night after practice. “Growing up, my dad always told me to be a leader, not a follower. I always wanted to be a leader, I always liked leading. I’m not saying I’m the leader on our team or on our defense, but it is the safety’s job to make sure you make the right checks and the right calls.

“Me and Delano (Hill) are excited about that because it’s up to us, we know it’s our defense, and it’s great getting people lined up, communicating. It’s just a beautiful thing.”

Thomas, who came on strong at the end of last season and made four starts, will be at free safety, and Hill at strong.

Wilson was the quiet leader on the defense. He said little publicly, but he embraced his role on defense and was invaluable to his fellow defensive backs.

“Jarrod did a great job of taking over that role,” Thomas said. “A lot of times we would forget the play and we depended on Jarrod. Jarrod says now I have to be the man out there getting everyone lined up, making the checks, making the calls.

“I’ve got to be the leader because I’m a senior and I’ve been out there and I know how the game’s going to go. We all do a great job communicating, between me Delano and (Channing Stribling) Strib and JD (Jourdan Lewis) and Jeremy (Clark). It’s really not all me, but it comes down to a safety, to finalize the call and get people lined up. That’s one of the things I’m working on is being a leader out there.”

While Thomas has the more boisterous personality, Hill is more like Wilson, quiet but effective.

“Dymonte likes to talk a lot. I’m more quiet, but we work well together on the field,” Hill said Thursday. “We’ll share (the leadership duties). I’m going to help getting people together.”

Thomas said that the second half of last season he started to understand the playbook and felt comfortable playing man. Once that happened, he became more of a playmaker.

“I felt I was confident enough that I could do anything,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous or afraid to make a mistake.”

It took time for him to realize this moment.

He has played four positions during his Michigan career: cornerback, nickel, linebacker and safety. He said safety is his “love,” his favorite position because it allows him to play loose and have some fun.

With one season remaining, Thomas understands he has to make good on all his goals.

“It’s a true lesson to stay patient and wait for your time to come,” Thomas said. “One thing Jarrod used to always tell me is always stay in your playbook because you never know when your time is going to come. It’s exciting. After two years I thought I was going to play a lot, and I didn’t. But I wasn’t upset or anything. I still had a lot of special-team time, which was fun. The last two years have really been a blast.”

He has definitely enjoyed his teammates.

While in Florida when Michigan held its first four practices during spring break, at one practice Thomas, on the sideline with some of the other defensive backs, inadvertently became the target of a hard throw by quarterback Shane Morris.

The ball ricocheted off Thomas’ head and the defensive backs broke down in laughter.

“It’s JD’s fault,” Thomas said, pointing the finger at Lewis. “The ball was coming and JD was behind me, and I wanted to step back and JD pushed me. I saw the ball and I was like, ‘Well, the top of my head is probably really hard’ so I put my head down, and it bounced off my head. It didn’t hurt. Shane throws hard. Maybe I’m meant for football.”

Thomas has his future in his sights. His priority is this upcoming season, but he’s already planning for life beyond football if he doesn’t get a shot at the NFL. After a four-hour practice last Thursday, he woke up early to make a 7 a.m. business breakfast meeting at which outgoing Michigan interim athletic director Jim Hackett spoke.

“It was cool to see that people outside of football are trying to help us set up our careers outside of football,” Thomas said, saying the networking was incredible.

Brothers finally together

Delano Hill will get one year to play with his younger brother, Lavert, at Michigan this fall. It is the first time they have ever been on a team together.

Lavert is an incoming freshman from Detroit King and was a highly recruited, four-star defensive back. Delano played at Cass Tech and said he simply told his brother he had to be here this fall.

Asked if he is excited about the possibility of lining up with his younger brother, Hill laughed.

“I think y’all are more excited than me,” he said.

Quotable

Guard Ben Braden on what he will miss about center Graham Glasgow: “There was never a dark moment with Graham. Graham was really always good about bringing a smile. It’s weird not having him around.”

angelique.chengelis@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/chengelis

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