Duke Thomas

Texas defensive back Duke Thomas stops Kansas State running back John Hubert. Thomas, a Copperas Cove graduate, is preparing for the Alamo Bowl against Oregon on Monday in San Antonio.

Courtesy of UT Athletics

Aaron Ross, Michael Huff, Kenny Vaccaro and Earl Thomas all helped the University of Texas earn the nickname DBU because of the school’s knack for sending defensive backs into the NFL.

Former Copperas Cove standout Duke Thomas knows he has big shoes to fill for the Longhorns, but has made some huge plays during his first year as a starter.

Thomas has three interceptions, including a key one against rival Oklahoma, 47 total tackles this season and recorded a nine-yard sack on Thanksgiving night against Texas Tech.

Thomas talked about the Alamo Bowl and being a Longhorn last week.

You will be playing an uptempo Oregon offense, do you see a lot of opportunities for the UT secondary to make plays?

Oregon has a good offense, but Tech had a passing offense and Baylor had one of the best offenses in the nation. It’ll be a good test for us and a good opportunity for us to show people what we can do.

Looking back, how much of a breakout season was 2013 for you?

Coach gave me an opportunity to play, and I just ran with the opportunity.

How much work did you put into the offseason to make yourself a better player?

Here there’s a lot of competition. I always look at my teammates, and coach (Dwayne) Akina really compelled me to work for the preseason.

Do you feel pressure playing defensive back for DBU?

I don’t see it as pressure, I look forward to it. Texas has a tradition of making successful players, so it makes you think that if you go at it hard, you can be one of those players.

What is your favorite memory of playing for Copperas Cove?

Playing cornerback and being able to command a whole regiment of players. I feel like that leadership role enabled me to lead my guys to victory.

Why did you choose Texas?

I had a lot of schools on my list, over 20 or so, I don’t know how many exactly. Texas made me want to go there after I saw an opportunity to play for Coach Akina, the family atmosphere and the tradition of winning. That’s really what did it for me. Being close to home also did it for me.

What are some of the goals you want to accomplish before you leave Texas?

Definitely get my degree, hopefully, be the No. 1 team in the nation, and, hopefully, get my (national championship) ring.

Have you thought about what you want to do when your playing days are over?

I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but you can’t play football forever and people need to realize that. I definitely need to get my degree.

How was the transition from former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to Greg Robinson after two games?

I think our guys banded together and started trusting each other. It’s on us, we needed to start playing better and it’s made for a better defense.

How bad do you want to win this game for Mack Brown?

And also for the seniors in that game. We really want to end the season on a good note. Everybody knows the bowl games are the first game of next year so we really want to win that game and get momentum for next season.

What can an Alamo Bowl win build for 2014 with a new head coach?

We’ll have confidence going into next season and know that we can compete. Oregon is a great team and it’s about getting momentum going into next season.

Contact Albert Alvarado at alvarado@kdhnews.com

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