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“It was kind of a shock,” he said.

It turns out coach Bill Snyder had taken a long look at videotape.

“I just didn’t feel like he was going to be able to throw the football as well as you would hope you could at that position,” he said. “It was apparent he could run the ball.”

Many quarterbacks might be bitter at the switch. Not Thomas.

“You say, ‘Daniel, you’re a safety, Daniel, you’re an offensive tackle,’ he would say, ‘OK, show me what to do,’” said Snyder. “That’s just the way he is.”

Thomas hurt his shoulder in the first game in 2009. But with a sore shoulder and no experience at his new position, he proceeded to lead the Big 12 with 1,265 yards rushing.

This year, in his 13th game as a running back, he launched his senior season with 234 yards against UCLA. No one had gained that many yards against the Bruins since Reggie Bush went for 260 in his Heisman Trophy-winning year of 2005.

He had 137 against Missouri State the next week and ripped through Iowa State’s defense for 181 the week after that, scoring two touchdowns in all three games.

O'Leary’s Central Florida defense keyed on him every play and held him to 76 yards but that opened up the passing lanes for Coffman and Kansas State remained unbeaten going into this bye week.

“We’re undefeated and that’s the most important thing,” Thomas said. “I don’t think we’ve reached our potential yet.”

Thomas ranks fourth nationally with an average of 157 yards. His 628 total yards rushing are second only to Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.

“Against a back like him you have to be prepared for it because the average back is nowhere near that size,” Central Florida defensive end David Williams said of the beefy, 6-foot-2 Thomas. “He’s so shifty, too. For his size, his athleticism is almost unforeseen in college football.”

Sometimes he still looks like a rookie at his position. There have been several times this year when he failed to use his blocks just right.

“But he makes so many yards on his own after contact,” said center Wade Weibert. “He just keeps churning his feet and fighting for every inch he can get.”

Given his accomplishments, the inexperience cannot be considered a problem. Neither are grades. The gifted young athlete once considered an academic risk is on track to get his degree.

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