On the evening of Sept. 5 Steve Cooper rushed to a television after Portland State's football team ended its afternoon practice. His Vikings were traveling the next day to Berkeley Calif. so they finished early but Cooper still didn't know if he would make it in time.

He'd seen the depth chart read the stories. Cooper knew Julius Thomas would be starting for the Broncos at tight end in the NFL season opener and he hoped by some miracle he'd see Denver's opening drive. It was unlikely except of course for that 33-minute lightning delay and a fortuitous flip of the coin. While most of the football world groaned impatient to begin the season Cooper knew this was yet another case of the stars aligning.

He saw it all from Thomas' drop on Denver's opening play to his two touchdowns — the first of his pro career — and 110 yards receiving.

When it comes to Thomas Cooper is accustomed to this kind of good fortune. A pragmatist would call it circumstances: right place right time results.

Not four years before his first NFL start Thomas was a basketball player at a Big Sky Conference school with the harebrained idea that he'd pick up a second sport once his hoops eligibility expired. After leading Portland State to its first two NCAA Tournament berths in 2008 and 2009 Thomas had offers to play overseas — and make good money doing so — but he wasn't ready for that. Instead he went to the football offices in the spring of 2010 laid out his plan and was told that if he showed up for meetings he'd get some pads.

That was all a promise for pads.

Unsure if Thomas would return the football coaches began their research on a player known around the athletic department as being well-liked and cerebral. Cooper then the tight ends coach saw the 21-year-old's raw athletic skills on the basketball court; at 6-foot-5 Thomas was an undersized post player banging with opponents much larger. He was tough enough Cooper thought and the football team needed a tight end.

What Thomas didn't know was that the football staff that took over in 2010 was in a bind. Coach Nigel Burton was implementing his pistol offense with players recruited by a coach who relied on a run-and-shoot system.

More simply Burton and his staff had inherited a slew of undersized slot receivers but what they needed was a tight end.

"It's just one of those great stories where everything fell into place" Cooper said. "We needed a tight end and it was like OK we'll try you."

At the time Thomas hadn't played football since ninth grade when he started feeling growing pains in his lower back. Doctors as well as his mother suggested he sit out the season.

Once he decided to focus on basketball that was it. Even so early in college Thomas began batting around the idea of playing football again. He mentioned it to his basketball coaches and teammates and it was almost like a running gag. They didn't want him to go out on the football field get hurt and ruin his chances at a basketball career.

"We used to joke with him say he'd get hit once and that would be the end of it" Portland State men's basketball coach Tyler Geving recalled.