The secret to
It’s all about the back pedal. Not the one he has displayed since being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft four years ago, the one that has helped make Thomas a two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl free safety and also helped make the Seahawks Super Bowl champions.
It started long before any of that, and also predates his tenure as a Thorpe Award finalist at the University of Texas and his days as an all-state player at West Orange-Stark High School in Texas.
“So I was born a DB.”
Everyone in the auditorium at VMAC laughed, but it’s no joke. And Thomas’ back-pedaling ways started even before that first backward step.
“He was crawling backwards,” Debbie Thomas, Earl’s mother, said after the news conference – where Thomas was flanked on the stage by coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, and also joined in the front rows of the audience by his parents, Earl Jr. and Debbie; girlfriend, Nina, and their 18-month-old daughter, Kaleigh Rose; and younger brother, Seth.
Asked after the news conference what areas of his game he plans to work on, Thomas zipped through a lengthy list.
“False steps. Proper angles. Not stopping my feet. QB intentions. Tracking,” he said. “So there’s a lot.”
It’s that never-satisfied, always-looking-ahead approach that has allowed Thomas to become the best safety in the game, and will drive him to become even better.
“When you go out doing what I do in looking for professional football players, scouting colleges, this is what you’re looking for right here,” Schneider said, looking at Thomas. “You’re looking for a guy with this type of intensity, integrity, work ethic, passion. And the bottom line with this gentleman right here is that he is a young man that wants to great.
“It permeates throughout the building. It permeates throughout his team. And you can just feel the energy from this man. I can’t tell you how proud we are to have drafted Earl four years ago.”
“I don’t dream that way,” Thomas said. “I kind of dream as a hero. As a guy that’s not a closer, because I think it’s higher than a closer. It’s a guy that from Play One to the end, and when everybody’s breaking down, I’m calm, cool and collected. Because I know whatever happens I’ve got it.”
And he wasn’t talking about that label as the highest-paid player at his position.
“I don’t think it’s a label. It’s something that I earned,” Thomas said. “Bad stuff doesn’t fuel me anymore. This definitely fuels me. It gave me a boost. I’m just excited to prove who I am, again, and see if I can get better. Because it’s a process, and I’m focusing on the process and the destination will take care of itself.”
But the Seahawks reached the ultimate destination on Feb. 2 with their defense-dominated 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Right? The look that washed across Thomas’ face suggested try again.
“That’s not the ultimate goal, though,” he said. “The ultimate goal is how many times you can do it. Like when people win something they kind of relax. The challenge is not to relax. I never lost sight of everything. So I don’t have to recapture what happened last year.”
Thomas is on the same page that Carroll and Schneider have been since they arrived as almost a package deal in 2010 to transform the fortunes of this franchise. Their goal in free agency has always been about taking care of their own, and signing Thomas to his extension allowed them to match words with action.
“We’re really proud and I couldn’t be more excited for him.”
Thomas then offered in almost a whisper, “Appreciate that coach.”
Just as the Seahawks obviously appreciate everything Thomas brings.
“Earl has been one of the pillars of the mentality that we want, that has become championship for us,” Carroll said. “So for us to have this opportunity to recognize that and recognize a guy that’s at the top of this game and playing in the style that he does and representing so well, it’s a very proud moment for us.”