Tavierre Thomas alertly saw what was happening, recognizing an errant pass from New York Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson that bounced off the back of unsuspecting running back Ty Johnson.
The Texans' nickel cornerback grabbed the football to secure his first NFL interception in his fourth NFL season, 56th career game and 11th game of the season Sunday during a 21-14 loss to the New York Jets.
“A long time, I’ve been waiting a long time," Thomas said Monday. "Happy it came, mad we didn’t get the win, but glad I got my first one.”
Signed to a two-year, $4 million contract during the offseason, Thomas has started four games at nickel when Desmond King shifted outside. He has played in every game and has a career-high 50 tackles with two passes defended. The former Cleveland Browns special-team ace has provided a physical presence in the secondary and on special teams.
Thomas has played 50 percent of the defensive snaps and 68 percent of the defensive snaps.
“We are playing pretty good," Thomas said. "There are little areas we can clean up. We are playing pretty good, but we got to get the wins. Somehow, someway we have to come out and try to get another turnover or anything. We just have to get in the end zone. We haven’t gotten in the end zone all year on defense, so that is one of the goals, not just take the ball away but get in the end zone.”
A former Division II All-American who walked on at Ferris State, Thomas had five special teams tackles in one game against the Dallas Cowboys last season. That marked the most in an NFL game since 2018 and the most by a Browns player since 2004.
Thomas has had to work hard and overcome adversity to get to the NFL.
Although he was recruited by Iowa, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan and other Division I schools, he wasn’t offered a scholarship due to a low ACT score despite graduating high school with a 3.8 grade point average. So, he enrolled in college on an academic scholarship.
Thomas was named a Division II All-American as a senior with 60 tackles, four interceptions and 18 passes defensed, finishing his career with 175 tackles, 14 interceptions and 35 passes defensed.
Thomas has allowed 15 completions on 25 passes thrown in his direction for 116 yards, no touchdowns and a 54.7 opposing passer rating while playing for defensive coordinator Lovie Smith.
“I’ve learned a lot because I’m a nickel," Thomas said. "I’m the only nickel and I’m with Lovie every day, all day and he teaches me everything from all standpoints, safety, corner, linebackers. I know what everybody is doing. When one person messes up, everybody knows who to look at. So, it’s getting pretty good, everybody just playing together and trusting their teammate.”