Last fall, Lawrence Thomas learned on the job as he made an in-season position switch from defensive lineman to fullback. This spring, Thomas had a full offseason to prepare as a blocker as opposed to gearing up to shed blocks.
"Last year, I learned as I went. But now I've had the whole offseason to study up and learn the plays," he said of the biggest difference between this year and last. "Now I'm all in, so it's going to be a good year."
The third-year veteran played in 14 games for the Green & White in 2017 and recorded six receptions for 43 yards. He first lined up in the backfield in Week 3 against the Dolphins and nearly found the end zone on a 15-yard reception. Shortly thereafter, Thomas switched from No. 97 to 44, traded the green practice jersey for the white one and became the team's fullback for the remainder of the season.
Thomas said he's focusing on his footwork during his time off before training camp, so he can be ready to roll and go "full tempo" once the pads come on. In coordinator Jeremy Bates' offense, Thomas envisions blocking as the fullback's primary role.
"You have to be downhill, tough and physical," he said. "But you still have to get the job done when you go out there. You have to catch passes, too. But we're just trying to focus on pounding the ball."
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Thomas played fullback as a redshirt freshman (2012) at Michigan State and blocked for Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell before switching back to the defensive line.
"LT was a defensive lineman and Coach Bowles kept saying, 'Stump this guy is very talented. He's big, but he's very talented.' He's absolutely right," running backs coach Stump Mitchell said. "He's smooth. We don't really need for him to lose a whole lot of weight — 295, 290 would be great. But he played last year after switching over from a defensive lineman at 300 pounds."
Bowles said Thomas, who's listed at 286 pounds, will serve as an emergency defensive lineman and he echoed Mitchell's sentiment that the former undrafted free agent does not need to lose weight.
"He was big when we put him there and he moved around well," Bowles said. "We're comfortable with him where he is. We're not trying to make him lose anymore or gain anymore. He's a good size and he moves well enough where he is."