Texans nickel back Tavierre Thomas has been named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, an award recognizing his performance during a 41-29 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
The former undrafted free agent from Ferris State, a Division II school, returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown for his first career score.
Thomas intercepted Chargers Pro Bowl quarterback Justin Herbert.
Thomas earned the Defensive Player of the Week honor for the first time in his career and the first time for the Texans since the 2019 season.
“Happy, too happy," Thomas said. "Glad it came when it came, when we got a win. I’m just going to continue do what I do and go out there and continue to show people who I am on and off the field.”
“I kind of knew, but when I woke up and I actually saw it, it was amazing. Just to see that and see my mom, my family and my teammates happy for me and my coaches texting me this morning. It was nice. It was great.”
Thomas had eight tackles, six solos and one pass defensed. He was just one of four players to return an interception for a touchdown last week. He was the only player in the AFC to have at least eight tackles and one interception.
Thomas wrote on social media recently that he's set his ambitions on achieving something even bigger next year: the Pro Bowl.
“I don’t feel like I’ve been snubbed because there is a pretty good guy in (Colts corner) Kenny Moore in the AFC," Thomas said. "He’s real good, look up to him. Just learning the game from him and the other guys. I’m finally getting my opportunity to play defense and I just want to continue to show everyone that I can actually do it. So, when the opportunity comes next year, I hope my name gets called for the Pro Bowl slot corner.”
When Thomas was playing for the Cleveland Browns as their special teams ace, he was hoping to make it to the Pro Bowl. However, he was blocked by the presence of New England Patriots perennial Pro Bowl special teams ace Matthew Slater.
"He beat me out every year," Thomas said. "Now playing defense, my goal is to be there with (Browns corner) Denzel (Ward). That’s one of my boys, Denzel Ward. He’s going to his second one, proud of him. So, I am trying to get there with him. If I can do that, that will be another goal checked off my list.”
Thomas, who joined the Texans last offseason on a two-year, $4 million contract, has watched the return several times.
“It’s surreal," he said. "It’s crazy. I keep looking at it. Sometimes it comes to me like people keeping telling me about it and then I look at my phone and someone mentioned me or something. It’s crazy.”
A fellow former Division II standout, safety Jonathan Owens (Missouri Western) also shined against the Chargers with his first career interception and a fumble recovery. Thomas and Owens are friends and have a similar background.
“For us, we just waited," Thomas said. "We came in together as rookies in Arizona so me and him have known each other for the last four years. I met him. That’s one of my closest friends. We came in and we just told each other we are just going to wait on our opportunity wherever it’s at. Four years later, we’re both playing on the same team, starting on the same defense. It’s just crazy. We just got to keep it going. We got out opportunity. We can’t look back just keep getting better and better each and every week and the sky is the limit for both of us coming from D-II.”
Thomas said that the faith and knowledge that Lovie Smith has instilled in him means a lot to him.
“I just learned the defense, I’m learning," he said. "I’ve been learning the past three years, learning concepts and whatnot. I have a defensive coordinator that puts me in position to make plays.
"He puts me in position and I just go out there and try to make plays. I feel like I’m back in college all over again and just go out there, don’t care about the opponent and just do my job and be around the ball. That’s all I am doing this year and I will continue to do it as well.”
Thomas has also gained a lot from his interactions with cornerbacks coach Dino Vasso.
“They help me out a lot," Thomas said. "I am with Lovie (Smith) a lot, but Dino, he’s with me as well because I have to play corner if something were to happen, so he is on me about that. I have to be ready to play all positions. He keeps me right. Lovie is like a father figure. Dino is like a big brother and a coach at the same time. Just having those two guys, it helps me each and every day to become a better player.”