Thomas becomes second Cajun picked in 2018 NFL Draft

Tim Buckley
The Daily Advertiser

His career with the Ragin’ Cajuns seemed to be a constant battle.

UL cornerback Simeon Thomas was selected by the Cleveland Browns on Saturday in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

But that did not get in the way of UL cornerback Simeon Thomas getting selected Saturday in the NFL Draft and becoming another in a long line of ex-Cajun defensive backs who’ve gotten drafted.

Thomas was picked in the sixth round, 188th overall, by the Cleveland Browns.

His selection came one day after the Detroit Lions took Cajuns safety Tracy Walker in the third round, 82nd overall.

More:UL's Walker shocked Detroit takes him high in NFL Draft

Posted Thomas on Twitter and Instagram: "I can’t really put words together for what I want to say but appreciate the (Browns) for believing in me and giving me this amazing opportunity at my childhood DREAM! God Is Good!"

For Walker, the rise to the third round followed an offseason in which he played in the prestigious East-West Shrine Game and took part in the life-changing NFL Combine.

For Thomas, much like his time with the Cajuns, there were not a lot of breaks.

It seemed likely Thomas would at least get a shot somewhere as a free agent, but most draft prognosticators did not predict he’d get picked.

His primary exposure to NFL scouts came during UL’s Pro Day earlier this month, when afterward he declined to speak to reporters.

But the Browns, along with the Seattle Seahawks, were one of at least two NFL teams with which he reportedly visited prior to the draft, and Cleveland quite clearly liked what it saw.

More:Thomas, several other former Cajuns have NFL chance

The selection of Walker and Thomas makes 2018 the first year since 2011 — when defensive back Bill Bentley went to Detroit and tight end Ladarius Green went to the San Diego Chargers — that two Cajuns have been picked in the same draft.

The last year before that was 2003, when Charles “Peanut” Tillman went to the Chicago Bears and Ike Taylor was taken by Pittsburgh.

Since 1991, the Cajuns have produced 11 defensive backs who have played in the NFL: Bentley, Taylor, Tillman, undrafted Melvin White (now in the CFL), undrafted Kyries Hebert, undrafted Antwain Spann, undrafted Michael Adams, C.C. Brown, Brad Franklin, Todd Scott and the late Orlando Thomas.

A product of Carol City High in the Miami area of Florida, Simeon Thomas spent much of his college career was besieged by ineligibility issues — some of them academics-related, some disciplinary related.

In fact, he missed the first three games of his true freshman season in 2013 while awaiting NCAA academic clearance — and another because of the timing of the NCAA ruling.

Related:UL's Walker considers pre-NFL Draft position 'a blessing'

“Obviously there are some guys in this group that (do) have some spots on ’em,” said Cleveland coach Hue Jackson, whose Browns’ other picks included Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma at No. 1 overall and suspended Florida receiver Antonio Callaway in the fourth round.

“But, trust me, we’ve done our due-diligence in making sure we vetted it all out," Jackson added when speaking Saturday to reporters in Cleveland. "And we feel very good about putting these guys in our organization.”

For academic and disciplinary reasons, Thomas didn’t play at all in 2014 and redshirted instead.

The 2015 season was lost as well for Thomas, who was ineligible for the season’s first nine games and opted not to play the final three so he could preserve another season of eligibility.

He had two interceptions while playing in all 13 games and starting seven in 2016, then was suspended for the start of the 2017 season for academic and disciplinary reasons.

But Thomas — reported to be among a small group of UL recruits caught up in an ACT testing scandal that led to since-expired NCAA sanctions for the Cajuns — wound up playing in nine games last year, when he had 42 total tackles and a team-high 12 pass breakups.

Tweeted former Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth, who was fired last December and now is Mississippi State's tight ends coach: "Congrats Simeon Thomas ... What a journey, and the journey continues!! Proud of you!!!"

Related:Cajun cornerback Thomas ineligible for two 2017 games

More:NCAA suspension pained UL's Thomas