With last year's starting safety Madieu Williams no longer on the roster and no heir apparent in place, the Washington Redskins were heavily linked to safeties in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Widely considered one of the deepest positions in the draft, the Redskins passed on safeties with each of their first two picks before scooping up Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas at No. 119.
Thomas was projected by many draft boards as a second to third round pick, but said he was not frustrated by the slide and plans to use it as motivation.
"I started getting a little anxious, going throughout the whole draft and watching everybody get picked," he admitted during his conference call with the Washington media. "But I knew God had a plan for me and all I needed to do was wait.
"I couldn't be happier with where I'm going now. [It stung] a little bit, but I'm going to come in and I'm going to give it all I've got. I'm feel I'm going to be the steal of the draft."
Thomas had a stellar collegiate career at Fresno State, starting all 39 games of his career split between free and strong safety.
He tallied 178 tackles, four sacks, and caused turnovers with six forced fumbles and 13 interceptions, scoring four defensive touchdowns.
Thomas said making plays comes naturally with his size (6-1, 210 pounds) and speed (4.53 40) and thinks it will translate well to the NFL level.
"I feel like it's just instincts," he said. "We changed our whole defense around this past season. I was able to just play a little bit looser and use my instincts, and be the playmaker that I always knew I was."
Thomas has experience in teh 3-4 scheme from his time at Fresno State and said he was comfortable with the Redskins' playbook when he met with coaches in his pre-draft visit.
"[They] liked what I had to offer at the safety spot, and just being the ball hawk and all the instincts that I have," he said. "We just sat down, ate dinner, looked over some film, and that's basically what we did."
With Brandon Meriweather expected to be ready at strong safety, Thomas is expected to be in the mix for the starting job at free safety this offseason.
Regardless of where he lines up, Thomas assured the media he will be ready.
"My style of play allows me to play both [safety positions]. I'm great at going to get the ball when it's in the air," he said. "I did a lot of things as far as blitzing and playing in the box, so I feel like I can do both.
"I feel like I'm an interchangeable safety that can make plays in the box and also play in the high hole and make plays in the air."
Growing up as a Redskins fan in California, Thomas is also intimately familiar with the Redskins' roster, if only from a distance.
"I knew that we needed a safety. I've been a Redskins fan my whole life," he said. "I know [Redskins safety Brandon] Meriweather was hurt this year and they needed a safety who could play the ball in the air.
"I'm happy that the Redskins organization chose me to be that safety. It's an amazing feeling. I'm happy I'm able to be a Redskin now. I can't wait to get out there and get to work."