ASHBURN, Va. (AP) - The Washington Redskins used the NFL draft to pick off a couple of ball hawks, selecting the last two players to lead major college football in interceptions.
Safety Phillip Thomas had eight last year with Fresno State to top all FBS players. Cornerback David Amerson grabbed 13 with North Carolina State in 2011. Both are now members of a defense that needed a secondary boost after giving up 4,511 yards last year, third worst in the NFL.
"I know that we needed a safety," Thomas said. "I've been a Redskins fan my whole life. ... I'm happy that the Redskins organization chose me to be that safety."
Thomas had an anxious wait all the way to the fourth round on Saturday - No. 119 overall - to get the call, even though he was a consensus first-team All-American.
"I feel like I'm going to be the steal of the draft," he said.
The Redskins took Amerson on Friday in the second round as they work to shore up the weakest link on a team that won the NFC East last year and hopes to contend for a Super Bowl title in short order with quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Thomas sat out the 2011 season with a broken left leg and dislocated ankle, but he returned last year to anchor a Bulldogs secondary that transitioned to a more aggressive 3-4 scheme.
"I was able to just play a little bit loose," Thomas said. "And use my instincts to be the ball hawk that I always knew I was."
Thomas grew up in California and went to college there, so his favoritism for the Redskins is pretty random.
"I saw them play one day on TV when I was younger," he said. "And that was my team ever since then."
His favorite Redskins player? An obvious choice.
"Of course it has to be Sean Taylor," he said. "I play the safety position. To watch him play the game, as aggressive as he was, as great of a player as he was, he studied the film and did everything he had to do."
The Redskins' draft haul also included tight end Jordan Reed of Florida in the third round. They also had four more picks scheduled in Rounds 5-7.