In a historical sense, when looking back at past Jim Thorpe Award winners, Phillip Thomas doesn't fit.
It's not because of his name. All three finalists for the nation's best defensive back (Thomas, Dee Milliner and Johnthan Banks), which were announced by the Oklahoma City association on Monday, are first-timers.
And it's certainly not because of his stats. Thomas leads the nation with eight interceptions, two more than the next highest, and has returned three of those for touchdowns.
But rather, it's because of the school Thomas plays for.
The other two finalists play for SEC stalwarts, Banks for Mississippi State and Milliner for Alabama, locking up opposing wideouts as key forces for imposing defenses.
But Thomas plays for Fresno State, an 8-3 team in the lesser-known Mountain West Conference. Most of his games are played late at night on channels you've never heard about.
And that's what makes his inclusion in the final three of this prestigious award all the more impressive.
His stats and overwhelming production, which has put him on the NFL radar, forced his name into the conversation.
Last season, when Thomas was out with a broken leg, Fresno State went 4-9 and was tied for last in the nation with only nine turnovers. This year, with Thomas starring, the Bulldogs have forced 30 turnovers (nine from Thomas alone), planting them atop the Mountain West standings.
And that's landed the talented safety on this postseason finalist list, with Phillips trying to become the first non-BCS conference defensive back since 1995 (and only the second ever) to win the Jim Thorpe Award.
JIM THORPE FINALISTS
School: Mississippi State
Notable stats: Four interceptions and 56 tackles
Interesting tidbit: His 16 career interceptions are third in FBS and 320 career interception return yards are most among active players
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Notable stats: Two interceptions, 14 pass breakups (leads SEC) and 44 tackles
Interesting tidbit: He is considered a first-round lock in the NFL Draft, whenever he decides to come out.
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School: Fresno State
Notable stats: Eight interceptions (leads nation), 73 tackles and three sacks
Interesting tidbit: His eight interceptions are more than 35 bowl subdivision teams have as a whole.