The Houston Texans finished their 2021 season with a 4-13 record. Although there were only a few bright spots, the ones that did exist are certainly worth highlighting. Houston’s defense as a whole took a big step in the right direction under Lovie Smith, and cornerback Tavierre Thomas specifically flourished in this system. Thomas had a great year, yet most NFL fans don’t even know his name. It’s time for him to get the credit he deserves.
Thomas’ path to the NFL was very unique and proves that talent can come from anywhere. He played college football at Ferris State, a Division II school in Michigan. He joined the team as a walk-on, with the intent of transferring to a Division I program after a season or two. However, Thomas played well at Ferris State and ultimately ended up spending four years there. He finished his collegiate career with 175 tackles, 35 pass deflections, and 14 interceptions. As a result, he became a Division II All-American in consecutive seasons (2016, 2017).
Thomas was signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and was cut before the regular season began. He then spent three years with the Browns, but saw most of his action on special teams, recording 47 total tackles over that span.
The Texans took a chance on Thomas in free agency, signing him to a two-year deal after the 2020 season. He was originally the fourth cornerback on the depth chart, but was given a larger role as the year progressed. The Texans moved Desmond King II to outside cornerback after Vernon Hargreaves III withered and failed, which opened the door for Thomas to play the slot. Thomas’s breakout performance came in Week 16 against the Chargers, when he recorded 8 tackles, a pass deflection, and a pick-six off quarterback Justin Herbert. Houston pulled off a 41-29 upset victory, and Thomas was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Thomas played in all 17 games in 2021, recording 86 tackles (51 solo), 4 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, and 1 touchdown. He was not the only Division II product that made a difference on the team this year, as safety Jonathan Owens (Missouri Western) also notched his first career interception and fumble recovery in the Chargers game.
It’s always great to see the underdog come out on top. Hopefully Thomas can continue to produce at a high level in 2022. He might not get all the attention yet, but it’s only a matter of time before Thomas becomes a player that opposing offenses need to look out for.