MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Playing football in the Big 12 is supposed to be, you know, hard. Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas must not have heard.
Thomas took the long road to Kansas State, heading to a handful of junior colleges before finally becoming eligible before last season. He'd never technically been a running back before. He spent most of his time at quarterback.
"I just ran the ball mostly," Thomas said.
That meant a position change at the FBS level. Oklahoma, Louisville and Ole Miss wanted the 6-foot-2, 228-pounder to play safety. Kansas State was going to let him keep the ball in his hands -- and give it to him often.
"They had a lot of different plays for me, like the Wildcat, and they were feeding the ball like every play," Thomas says of last year's fall camp. "It was wild, starting every game and then getting all the carries. I didn’t expect that."
In his first season, Thomas took those carries, all 247 of them, and led the Big 12 in rushing with 1,265 yards.
Both of those numbers could grow this season.
"I'm not looking for ways to take the ball out of Daniel's hands," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "I think he'll have to have a substantial involvement in what we do on offense."
Thomas was understandably raw at the position last season. As a quarterback, he'd never really learned how to block or read holes.
"I was used to just catching the [snap] and going," Thomas said.
His ball security needed work. The carries in the running game, combined with the hits taken on pass blocks were more of a workload than he'd ever experienced.
"My legs were dead [after the season] and we got right back into conditioning and my body was still tired," Thomas said.
He's working on all of those things this spring, as well as his speed.
"It's going to be a challenge, because last year, teams didn't know too much about me," Thomas said. "We're expecting defenses to load the box up, but we've got pretty good receivers this year, so teams can't just load up the box. They have to respect the pass."