WACO — Texas senior cornerback Duke Thomas admitted Saturday there were times this season where he was starting to wonder if it’d ever come.
“Every game, I was going into it like, ‘oh, this is going to be the game, this is going to be the game,’” Thomas said. “And then coming into this week, I wasn’t even thinking about it and — bang!”
In his final game in a Texas uniform Saturday, Thomas got his long-awaited first interception of the season.
But the former Copperas Cove star got an even bigger reward when the clock hit 0:00 at McLane Stadium as his efforts helped the Longhorns end a roller coaster season on a positive note with a 23-17 victory against No. 12 Baylor.
Yet as sweet as snapping a two-game skid against the Bears was for Thomas and the program as a whole, his head coach hadn’t forgotten what Thomas has done all season in leading a young defense and playing every position in the secondary.
“He had an unbelievable year,” Longhorn head coach Charlie Strong said. “And I told Duke, I said, ‘I’m so happy that you are very unselfish.’ (He) played every position in the secondary, could’ve very easily said ‘I’m just going to play corner, coach, and I don’t want to play anywhere else.’
“But (he said), ‘hey, wherever you need me, coach, I’ll play,’ and did a great job.”
Saturday was a fine example of that and not just on Thomas’ four tackles and second-quarter interception that squelched just the second Baylor drive to reach Texas territory.
“If you watched him out there today, he was lining up those young players, getting them in the right place and giving them their routes,” Strong said, “because he’s studied the game so much.”
Afterward, the way Thomas has embraced his role as a mentor was evident as he spoke of the win not in terms of what it meant personally but what it meant for the young players and the future of the program.
But Thomas did admit the kind words from his head coach were also a nice reward for everything he has put into his final season in Austin.
“It’s awesome,” Thomas said. “I always try to do whatever I can for my team, and I definitely try to show some diversity as well.
“So it’s definitely good to hear that my selfless attitude hasn’t gone unnoticed.”
With a final record of 5-7, the Longhorns may not have had the type of season that Thomas or his teammates were hoping for.
But his efforts certainly didn’t go unnoticed, and definitely not on Saturday, when they helped Thomas and his team go out on a high note in 2015.