Cardinal scholar-athletes heading to the NFL

Christian McCaffrey and Solomon Thomas

The Cardinal had one of its best showings ever at the National Football League draft.

Solomon Thomas with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

SOLOMON THOMAS, a junior defensive lineman, was selected third overall by the San Francisco 49ers. Thomas is the highest defensive draft pick in program history.

His selection was followed quickly by that of CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY, a junior running back, who was selected by the Carolina Panthers with the eighth pick.

In 2016, Thomas won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12 Conference’s top defensive lineman. A native of Texas, he ranked in the top five in the Pac-12 in sacks (7.0) and tackles for loss (13.0). Thomas also led the Cardinal with 36 solo tackles and tied for the team lead with 55 total tackles.

Thomas’ Sun Bowl performance against North Carolina attracted the attention of NFL scouts. Even his impressive stat line (seven tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss) failed to illustrate his dominance in Stanford’s 25-23 victory. Appropriately, Thomas saved the game with a sack of Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky on a two-point conversion try with 25 seconds remaining.

Christian McCaffrey in a Panthers cap.

McCaffrey, who is from Colorado, led the nation in 2016 with 211.6 all-purpose yards/game and ranked fourth nationally with 145.7 rushing yards/game. His 2,327 all-purpose yards as a junior ranked second in Stanford history, only bested by his NCAA record of 3,864 set in 2015.

McCaffrey became Stanford’s first AP Player of the Year in 2015, the same season he was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, Rose Bowl Game Most Outstanding Offensive Player, consensus All-America and Heisman Trophy finalist.

Since the draft, two players have also signed free agent deals with NFL teams. Wide receiver MICHAEL RECTOR has signed with the Detroit Lions. Wide receiver FRANCIS OWUSU has signed with the Miami Dolphins.

For more, visit the Stanford Athletics website.