Skip to main content

Draft Central | 2024

Presented by

Coach's Corner: Louisiana OL coach on Nathan Thomas


FRISCO, Texas — The eight draft picks for the Dallas Cowboys made their way to The Star this past weekend to officially put pen to paper on their rookie contracts and to participate in rookie minicamp, as their NFL careers have officially begun.

Entering as a rookie brings a lot of excitement, but also a lot of expectation. Especially for the current Cowboys rookie class, there will be a need for immediate contributions from the majority of the draft picks.

In Coach's Corner, we reached out to each of the draftees' college position coaches to find out more about their development in college on and off the field, their fits in Dallas and how it coincided with their time in college, and what they might need to work on before touching the NFL field.

Next up is seventh-round pick and Louisiana-Lafayette offensive lineman Nathan Thomas, who we spoke to Louisiana-Lafayette assistant offensive line coach Bryant Ross about regarding these topics.

Q: Coming out of high school, when he got there what was your sense of his work ethic in him being able to come in and do the work required to get on the field?

A: It's funny because when he came here, he came in mid-year. He was 16 years old coming out of Chalmette High School. He came here in January, and our offseason program was tough for college kids, let alone high school kids. He came in and he adapted to it fast. He did the required work and he consistently got better every day. He picked up on all of the offensive stuff. He was a high school tight end, but he wasn't a pass-catching tight end, he was just an extension of the offensive line.

Q: How long did it take for you guys to have the trust to put him on the field?

A: It took him a couple of years. One, he had to get used to how we were doing stuff and the physicality and everything that comes with it. That's with every high school kid that we bring into the program. It's such a developmental position that we really don't look at freshmen to come in and play right away. Within that room, we had three or four other draft picks. Those guys were ahead of him, but he played right tackle and left tackle. He was a third-team guy coming in and then he just progressively kept working his way. He started really playing in games in 2021.

Q: That length and size, was he ever a baby giraffe in some sense? When did he figure out how to use his length and do you think he's at a point now where he knows how to maximize that length?

A: The first part of your question, he was a baby giraffe coming in. He didn't know the what, the how, the why. He didn't know none of that stuff. He had to learn it, we had to teach it to him. Our process for development really works for him because it's a year-round process. Being in the system from '19 to '21, he kind of really understood the whys, the hows and the what. He was able to go play in '21.

Q: What would you say were his strengths for your protection unit last season?

A: Foot speed, he's very heavy-handed. He's really good with technique. Those three components. This dude really likes to run off the football. I say that – really liking to run off the football – but I think there's a difference in running off the football and being confident like Nathan was and is versus running off the football just trying to figure it out.

Q: It looks like knacks in the running game will be able to help in Dallas early on, where did you see him grow in that area as time went on?

A: He was able to move people. He was playing tackle so it wasn't hard to move a 5-Technique. He did a really good job of working up to linebackers into the second level. He did a really good job of foot quickness and foot speed, cutting off backside linemen on the backside of run schemes. I think he really maximized his talent.

Q: Off the field, what's his mentality and personality? Is he a big locker room guy or more of a reserved guy?

A: When he first got here, just like anybody he was like, "I gotta figure it out so I'm going to stick to myself." The last couple of years, he's been really good in the locker room. The thing I like about Nate that people don't see on a day-to-day basis is he took a point to himself to bring the young guys along. Coaching the young guys up in the film room, giving them tools to put in their toolbelt so they can use in certain situations. He was a guy that you could say, "OK Nathan, here's the remote, you run the meeting." And we do that stuff from time-to-time, let the older guys run the meetings, some installs, some schemes. Nate would absolutely kill it.

Q: When he got drafted, how cool of a moment was that for him and you as well?

A: It was huge for the program, because the thing about the university is that we've been known for producing draft picks, but we've also been known for producing draft picks up front. I thought that was cool for the university, but for me, it was a surreal moment. You see a guy that comes in and is wet behind the ears, and by the time he leaves, this dude has really grown up in every aspect. Then, you see him develop over the years and you know that he can go and produce in the NFL. His work ethic is really, really good. You don't have to worry about him off the field. You won't have any issues. He cares about his family. He cares about the program. He cares about his teammates. He just constantly wants to get better every day.

Q: What is he still working on as he makes this jump to the NFL?

A: For me, he's going to continue to work on the little details that turn into big things. The technique aspect, the fundamentals, how to practice like a pro, how to study like a pro. We give these guys those tools, but it doesn't hit you until you actually gotta go do it. I think the way we set it up, we give the guys all of the tools to use so they can be successful in college, but then they can build on it and use those same tools when they get to the next level.

Q: What all positions did he practice at for you guys up front? He mainly played tackle, but did he have any guard flex in practice situations or anything during his time?

A: We played him at tackle 99-percent of the time. When we did one-on-one pass rush, we would give him some reps at guard. Whether it's like a walk-through setting, we would get him some reps at guard. Because we knew he'd need to know how to play guard and tackle on either side of the ball, so I think where he's at right now, he has a good understanding that he has to play some guard and tackle which will be huge for him. It wouldn't be brand new to him and for him, it may help him playing some guard so he can understand playing in a phone booth versus playing on the edge out at tackle.

Related Content