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BY BRYANT-JON ANTEOLA The Fresno Bee
Bakersfield High graduate Phillip Thomas has joined the team he grew up cheering for.
Thomas was selected by the Washington Redskins with the 119th overall pick of the NFL draft Saturday, the 22nd pick of the fourth round.
Thomas, who starred as a safety at Fresno State, is the first player from Bakersfield drafted since West High's Ryan Mathews went No. 12 overall to the San Diego Chargers in 2010.
Thomas was a running quarterback on the 2005 Drillers team that won the Central Section Division I title.
The Redskins were one of six teams Thomas had met with prior to the draft.
"I knew that we (the Redskins) needed a safety. I've been a Redskins fan my whole life," he said on a media conference call.
"It's an amazing feeling. I'm happy I'm able to be a Redskin now. I can't wait to get out there and get to work."
Projected as the eighth-best safety prospect entering the draft, Thomas was the 12th safety selected.
"I started getting a little anxious, going throughout the whole draft and watching everybody get picked," Thomas said. "But I knew God had a plan for me and all I needed to do was wait. ... I couldn't be happier with where I'm going now. I feel I'm going to be the steal of the draft."
Thomas led the nation with eight interceptions and three interceptions returned for touchdowns during his All-America campaign last season. He 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.
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.”
Neither Bakersfield Christian graduate Ryan Clanton (a University of Oregon offensive lineman) nor Taft High graduate Dalton Botts (a University of Miami punter) was selected. Both will presumably seek free-agent deals.
Wide receiver Marquess Wilson, the former Tulare star who took an early exit from Washington State, was taken in the seventh round (No. 236 overall) by the Chicago Bears.
Also Among those who went undrafted after rounds 4-7 wrapped up were Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray (Kingsburg), Fresno State running back Robbie Rouse and Nevada running back Stefphon Jefferson (El Diamante).
The Associated Press and Californian prep writer Zach Ewing contributed to this report.