SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- He started the season as "question mark." He finishes it as the "other" quarterback in the national title game. In between, Darron Thomas has collected a lot of yards and a lot of wins.
On Friday, at the Media Day for the BCS Championship Game, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was ushered up to a stage at the front of the room to take questions with a moderator.
When it was Oregon's turn to come into the ballroom, Thomas ended up at a small table mixed in with the offensive lineman.
What's a guy gotta do, other than win every game in his first year as a starting quarterback?
Thomas is the key in the ignition of the Oregon offense. He's the guy who makes it go and go fast.
When the season began, he was a redshirt sophomore with precious little playing experience who had to battle for the job with senior Nate Costa after the difficult departure of his close friend Jeremiah Masoli.
Thomas, who came to Oregon because he knew it would view him as a quarterback rather than just an "athlete," won the job and then he seized it. He took Oregon's spread offense to another level, took the Ducks to a place they'd never been before. He's been elusive and effective, fast and fast-thinking. He sets the Ducks' pace, has made some big throws despite questions about his ability to pass and the bottom line, he's a winner.
Thomas, a Houston, Texas native, threw for 2,518 yards and 28 touchdowns. He rushed for 492 yards and five more scores, his 85 carries ranking him second on the team behind tailback LaMichael James, the third-place finisher in the Heisman Trophy vote. He's run a complex offensive system like a veteran.
And its worth remembering at times that he's not.
"To be a sophomore, a first-year starter and take his team to a Pac-10 championship and an opportunity to play in the championship game is phenomenal," said Oregon coach Chip Kelly. "I have watched him get better and better each game."
Kelly never thought Thomas was an unknown quantity. He recruited Thomas as the prototype athletic quarterback to run his system. And Thomas spent two full years learning the system before he earned the job.
"He's a level-headed kid. He's not up and down. He's very steady. And he's not worried about who's getting the attention. All he wants to do is win," Kelly said.
James said Thomas has been cool and dependable.
"He makes all the right reads, I can tell you that," James said. "He is very vocal. He makes all the right checks. He really doesn't make mistakes."
Center Jordan Holmes said Thomas has "opened a lot of eyes."
"A lot of people did not expect him to do what he's done," Holmes said. "As players, we knew that the coaches would not put him in a position to run the offense if he was not capable of doing it. But I wasn't expecting the level of maturity he's had as a first-year starter.
"It's his show and he's running it very well."
Thomas said he never considered himself a question mark, the one "yeah, but..." to all of the folks who thought Oregon could do big things this season.
"I had people in spring ball asking me what was going to happen and I was telling them then that it wasn't going to be a question mark," Thomas said. "It was only to the media because we lost a good player."
Thomas doesn't concern himself with the spotlight and who gets to be in it. At least not for now. Newton, he said, "deserves the fame."
"He had done a lot of things to get there," Thomas said. "I'd like to be in his position also. That's the thing of not being the guy in the spotlight, if I do a good job, it's going to be new to people. Hopefully, I can be in the spotlight next year."