The Seahawks’ All-Pro free safety became a father last year, when his daughter, Kaleigh Rose, was born.
“It’s crazy how you have a whole kind of different view of things when you’re in that type of situation now, when you’re the father,” Thomas said. “You have to wonder, ‘OK, am I going to be a good father.’ But then you find out it just comes naturally to you.”
Father’s Day already held added meaning for Thomas, who was named after his father, who was named after his father – and Earl’s grandfather. But Earl Thomas III is only one of four Seahawks players with that distinction. The same 2010 NFL Draft that delivered Thomas in the first round also brought Golden H. Tate III in the second round and Walter Riley Thurmond III in the fourth round.
“It’s always meant a lot to me because of what has been before me,” Thomas said of carrying on the name – his name, but also their names. “When you have a guy like my grandpa, who really had custody of the whole family, he started it off. He was Earl I, if you want to call it that. Then there’s my dad, who is a Jr.
“Just two great men who really set a great example for not only me but my brother, my sister, my whole family. I definitely felt pressure just to want to try and live up to what they’d already done.”
Thomas’ late grandfather actually had custody of an entire community as the pastor of the church his family attended.
“That’s the crazy thing about it,” Thomas said. “I feel like my life had been blessed way before I even knew it. My grandfather always used to speak great things about me even when I was a youngster. He would never admit it, but I probably was his favorite grandchild.
“Of course it had a lot to do with my name, but I used to travel to different churches with him. It was just me and him in the car, one on one. He’s one of the reasons I have ‘III’ on the back of my jersey.”
During his first three seasons with the Seahawks, Thomas had that “III” designation only one his practice jersey because the league would not allow it on his game-day jersey. But the arrival of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III last season changed all that. Now Thomas will have “Thomas III” on the back of all his jerseys.
“It’s a dedication to my grandpa, and everything that he’s taught me,” Thomas said. “I know he’s watching down on me, so I just try to be the best person I can.”
Like Thomas, Harvin also has fond memories of his grandfather, in part because he never had a close relationship with his father.
“I was pretty young, so I don’t remember too much about it, but my mom said he took me with him everywhere he went,” Harvin, a wide receiver who also plays running back and returns kickoffs, said through a smile. “He took me to his favorite restaurant to eat. He took me fishing. He took me to work with him.
“So I just always felt something strong with him, just because he was the one who took care of me a lot when I was young. My grandfather stood for the right things. So I definitely enjoy being a third. I feel you’re kind of unique from everybody else.”
For Tate, also a wide receiver, the situation is reversed. His grandfather died before he was born. But Tate grew up in the considerable shadow of his father, who was a record-setting receiver at Tennessee State University.
“My father was a great receiver at Tennessee State,” Tate said. “They called him E.G. – for Elmer’s Glue – and Sticky Fingers Tate. So while it was an honor growing up his son, and with his name, I always wanted to be my own receiver and make a name for myself.”
As proud as Tate is of his father, who compiled a school-record 1,307 receiving yards in 1983 and was drafted in the fifth round of the 1984 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, Tate has given his father reasons to be proud as well. Tate had career-highs last season in receptions (45), receiving yards (688) and touchdown catches (seven).
Even though he never knew his grandfather, Tate said, “It has been an honor to carry on his name and the legacy that began with him.”
Thurmond, a cornerback, has similar feelings, because his grandfather died when he was 2-years old.
“So I never really got to meet him,” Thurmond said. “But I’ve always taken a lot of pride in the name and carrying that legacy on.”
Thurmond also is planning to have “Thurmond III” on his game-day jersey.
“A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to carry on their father’s name and their grandfather’s name,” Thurmond said. “Me not knowing my grandfather, I take a lot of pride in that.”
The best advice Thurmond ever received from his father is linked to the death of his grandfather at an early age.
“My dad just always told me just to live life and have fun,” Thurmond said. “Life is short. My grandfather died in his early 50s, so my dad always told me just to maximize all my opportunities.
“So I really embraced being a third growing up. I used to love writing Thurmond III on my papers in school. It was something unique and something different.”
Speaking of different, Harvin will become a father any day now, for the first time. And Thomas knows what a life-changing experience that is.
“I feel my dad and my mom raised me well, and when my daughter leaves home I want her to remember her values and how valuable she is and how her daddy showed her love,” Thomas said. “If a man can’t do that, she shouldn’t be with him.”
Thomas has those memories of his father, offering, “The reason I am so quiet and I lead by example is, looking back, that’s how my dad was. And still is. He definitely led by example and I took a lot of his ways. It just comes naturally.”
Tate also offered a sentiment that Thomas, Harvin and Thurmond can relate to.
“My father is in Atlanta, so I wish I got to spend more time with him,” Tate said. “But I want to wish all the fathers a Happy Father’s Day, especially those who get to spend this day with their children and those fathers who are having a positive influence and impact on their children’s lives.”