Kiondre Thomas didn't know it at the time, but perhaps the best part of his decision to play his final season at Kansas State as a graduate transfer was just that.
The chance to play.
With the Big Ten opting not to play a fall season, had Thomas not left Minnesota for Manhattan, he would have been left on the outside, looking in. As it stands, he's likely to start at cornerback Saturday, when K-State kicks off its season at 11 a.m. Saturday against Arkansas State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
"I just, honestly, feel like we're blessed to be in the position (where) we are to play the game we love this fall," said Thomas, a 6-foot, 186-pound senior from Fort Smith, Ark., who played three seasons at Minnesota with 11 career starts. "You've got people out there petitioning to play and be in our position, so I'm just thankful that we get to play."
K-State, in turn, is grateful to have a player of Thomas' ability and experience ready to step in and contribute immediately in the secondary. He is currently listed as a co-starter at cornerback with sophomore Lance Robinson opposite senior AJ Parker.
"He's done a great job," K-State coach Chris Klieman said of Thomas. "He's a really competitive young man.
"I'm excited for him that he's taken the challenge to come to K-State to help our team, to help himself. He's going to play an awful lot of football for us."
A year ago at Minnesota, Thomas played in all 13 games for the Gophers, starting four, and finished with 22 tackles, an interception and four passes defended.
So far, he has felt right at home in his new surroundings.
"I think that we've all done a good job competing with each other this fall camp," he said. "Since I'm an older guy and I've been in a system that's run a complex defense, I was pretty much able to catch on to things pretty good.
"All I really had to do was learn the terminology, and I felt like I would be fine, for real."
Sophomore Wayne Jones, the Wildcats' returning starter at strong safety, likes what he has seen so far from the veteran corner.
"He's a really good communicator," Jones said. "I know playing corner, they tend to get locked in a lot because they're either playing man a lot or just on their own little island.
"When you've got a good corner who can communicate, it helps out the safeties, the linebackers and so on and so forth."
Communication and confidence are two key elements to his game, in addition to a willingness to learn, Thomas said.
"You have to be confident to play this position," he said. "(And) I feel like I’m a student of the game and I really pay attention to the details whenever it comes to watching film.
"Just being able to communicate with the guys out there and be on the same page. I feel like that's part of my job, to make sure that we're all a well-oiled machine back there."
The communication aspect took some time, and for good reason.
"The hardest part throughout this whole pandemic was getting to know the guys," Thomas said. "When I first got onto campus, we really couldn't do too much with the whole virus thing going on.
"When I came in, got settled and got acquainted with everybody, the transition was pretty easy."
Klieman also has been impressed with Thomas' maturity.
"He's a real vocal guy, he's a physical corner (and he) gets his hand on guys," Klieman said. "He's a good-sized young man — probably close to 200 pounds.
"We're really excited about Kiondre joining our program, and he's going to have an impact this year."
For his part, Thomas said he made a strong connection with K-State's coaches while picking his new school.
"Throughout the recruiting process, this was the staff that I felt most comfortable with," he said. "Coach Klieman had a pretty good winning culture at North Dakota State, and I knew that would translate well here in the Big 12.
"That's just something I wanted to be a part of for my last year."