The process for Starling Thomas V is all part of the dream.

The former UAB cornerback, who grew up not far from the school, has enjoyed every moment of chasing an NFL dream. He used his time at the East-West Shrine to not only improve his draft status but also improve his game. He jumped in with both feet while training and with his longtime trainer Otis Leverette. He relished the opportunity to show his progression during UAB’s Pro Day.

“It’s been a dream, it’s been fun,” said Thomas, a graduate of Birmingham’s Ramsay High. “Going out and meeting new people, going to the East-West game, competing against so-called big name guys and showing I was able to compete with anybody. Showing the teams that just because you went to a small school, there are dawgs everywhere. The whole process has just been fun, showing everybody what I can do.”

Playing in the East-West Shrine Game, alongside UAB teammate Kadeem Telfort on the West team, was one of the first steps in this part of the process. The game was played on Feb. 2 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The real work, though, came that week in practice.

“Definitely it was nerves,” said Jackson, who was credited with one tackle in the 12-3 win for the West teams.  “You got to go into every practice like it’s a game, because the person on the other side, they’re trying to make a name for themselves too. You got to go in knowing you can beat them. You can’t have no wavering or second thoughts about yourself. The whole time I was at the East-West, I was just out there trying to prove to myself and prove to the scouts that just because I’m from UAB and if the other guy is from West Virginia or UCLA, it really doesn’t mean anything once you get in between those lines. They still got to prove they can play football and show they are better than you.”

Thomas spent time training in Florida before returning locally to work with Leverette, a former UAB and NFL defensive lineman. During training, he ran a 4.25 in the 40-yard dash. Heading into Wednesday’s Pro Day, the objective was direct.

“I just want to open everybody’s eyes, want them to say, how’d we miss this kid,” said Thomas, who had 97 tackles, 28 pass breakups and two interceptions in 49 games at UAB. “Show I should have been invited to the combine, show why I should be a pick and show why every team needs me on their team.”

His day went well. Thomas had a vertical leap of 37.5 inches, broad jump of 10 feet, five inches, 3-cone drill of 7.21 seconds and 5-10-5 shuttle of 4.36. He also had just one drop and looked smooth during individual position drills. It was in the 40-yard dash that he turned heads. The official time was 4.3 seconds. When he was done, his former teammates, who lined up on the balcony outside the second floor of the Football Operations Center, celebrated with him.

“I heard a bunch of different (times), 4.26, 4.28, 4.30, 4.27,” Thomas said. “I just got a lot of different numbers.”

Bottom line is he is fast.

“They’ve been talking to me, especially after my 40,” Thomas said about the assembled scouts. “I had all my teammates going crazy, they started talking to me then. I felt good and smooth in my drills.”

Now, it’s back to training, as well as making visits to several NFL organizations. He said he has several visits already scheduled and could have more before the NFL draft, which begins on April 27.

“I’ll keep training and get ready to hopefully hear my name on draft day,” Thomas said. “Just try to keep putting in the work. I’m thankful I’m here now.”

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