Ann Arbor – Michigan defensive back Dymonte Thomas has always found public speaking as easy as talking to anybody he meets.
He does both flawlessly.
He is equally at ease playfully trash-talking with teammates, such as tight end Jake Butt.
“Jake and I go at it every single day in seven-on-seven,” Thomas said recently about the Wolverines’ offseason workouts. “He’s not a trash-talker, but he just says, ‘Come cover me,’ and I’m like, ‘All right I’ll cover you.’ So then he’ll catch it and I’ll say, ‘I’ve got you next,’ and I’ll knock it down. And he’ll be like, ‘OK, I’ll get you with a double move.’
“Jake is a character. We talk trash every day. He likes to get better. He knows in the NFL there are going to be DBs who are quick and fast and strong, kind of like me, who are going to cover him, and he’s going to have to get open. That’s why he likes the competition. He’ll go against the linebacker, but he knows if he can get open on a DB, he can get open on a linebacker, so Jake and I go at it every day.”
Butt briefly flirted with the idea of going to the NFL after last season, but decided he would be better served with another year of experience at Michigan. Butt said he has records to set and wanted to play with his Michigan teammates one more year.
In his first Big Board following the 2016 NFL draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper ranked Butt just outside the top 25 in a group of five players also considered.
“Jake’s going to be probably a first-round pick,” Thomas said. “Jake has got strides. It’s not like he’s super fast, but he has long strides that make him fast. He’s really good with his double moves and he’s really good at sticking, stopping and going. If you don’t slow him down, he will leave you. He’s sneaky fast.”
Thomas gives trash-talk kudos to Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis.
“JD likes to talk trash all the time,” Thomas said. “He backs it up, though. And Jabrill (Peppers) has toned down.”
Thomas is expected to be a leader in Michigan’s secondary this fall. He said leadership comes naturally to all his senior teammates, but Thomas credits his father, a Marine, for his ability to easily fall into conversation and for his ability to lead.
“I get it from my dad,” he said. “My dad is very outgoing. He will speak to anyone, and it’s really easy for me.”
He also learned that yelling is not the way to gain attention. Thomas is among the senior leaders this summer running the summer workouts, and he’s about teaching, not yelling.
“It’s a senior effort. We make sure everyone does everything right,” Thomas said. “If someone is messing up I don’t go and yell at them. I tell them, ‘This how we do the lift,’ and, ‘This is how you should do it.’”
Thomas is a rarity because he doesn’t dabble much in social media. He does not have a Twitter account and only recently added Instagram and Snapchat.
Limiting his social media distractions was a strategic decision.
“I decided to take football and God and life more serious the past few years,” Thomas said. “I need to stay focused on doing the things I need to do, because sometimes with social media you get so sidetracked. You worry about social media more than you worry about the things that actually matter.
“The thing I realized, when you first get rid of it, I was constantly checking the phone and then I was like, ‘Oh, wait, I don’t have it.’ I put my phone away and I’d go outside or I’d swim or go see friends.
“I think it really helped that my parents didn’t let me get social media for a long time. My mom and dad said, ‘No, you don’t need that.’ A lot of kids my age, everything was social media. But for me it was, ‘Hey, how are you doing? What’s your name? Where are you from?’ I think that helped me translate to being able to talk to people about anything.”
Of course when you’re in high school …
“Every single day I thought it was the worst decision,” Thomas said, laughing. “But now I thank my dad all the time.”
As the Aug. 8 start of camp nears, Thomas is focused on the upcoming season. He has had a spring to work with new defensive backs coach Brian Smith and said they are similar in temperament and approach.
“He’s like me – if you mess up, he’ll tell you why you did it wrong and show you want to do,” Thomas said. “He’s a great coach.”
Thomas said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh also steps in to offer tips to the defensive players.
“If you mess up, he’ll coach you,” Thomas said. “That’s the best coach you can have, someone who will yell at you when you need to be yelled at and someone who will tell you why you’re being yelled at and coach you.
“He’s a great coach. He’s very wise. He’ll come over to defense and give us tips and guidance, and he’ll go to special teams meetings and give us tips and guidance. At first I’d think, ‘I thought he was a quarterback.’ But he knows the game, and he understands the game. You just think of Coach Harbaugh as being a quarterback, but he knows the game.”