Pro Football Hall of Fame T Joe Thomas (2.15.23)


On if he still flying high after being selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2023 Class:

“I am. I am definitely worn out from a busy weekend. We brought all four of our kids out there. We really wanted to make them a part of it because we felt like obviously they were a big part of the whole journey and the process to the Hall of Fame. We wanted to make sure we were making those memories alongside them. I will say that partying until well after midnight, which is already much later than I am usually awake, and then having the kids wake you up asking for the screen time passcode on their iPad at like 6 a.m. made for not a lot of sleep and a lot of tired eyes on the flight back from Phoenix yesterday.”


On if he was aware of his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame during the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission’s Annual Sports Awards last month, when he served as host and if he is worried that his wife, Annie, may be keeping other secrets from him after keeping the selection quiet for multiple weeks before ‘The Knock’:

“I guess I try not to worry about things that are out of my control, but certainly, Annie has proven to be a great secret holder (laughter). I want to say the day I learned about it and the day that ‘The Knock’ came was January 27, I think. It was a couple of weeks ago. I can’t remember when we met last [Sports Awards were hosted on Jan. 25). It was really hard to hold that secret in amongst all of the people who I love and respect that were wishing me luck and asking me had heard anything yet or what I thought. Especially as it got closer and people were like, ‘Aw, you know you are probably in, right?’ It was like, ‘Well, I feel like I have a pretty good case.’ There were even a couple of times – I don’t even remember exactly what it was – it was kind like of like, ‘Well, if I get in this is what we are going to do on Friday’ and trying to set up media and things on Friday morning [after the Pro Football Hall of Fame announcement], and they were joking, ‘Well, what happens if you don’t get in? You don’t want to set all of this stuff up if you don’t get in.’ I am like, ‘Guys, I have known for a couple of weeks. This is not exactly a secret anymore.’


On the support he has received since he was announced as a Pro Football Hall of Famer:

“It has been incredible. I have never had so many text messages in my inbox. Usually, I am the type of person who tries to be really responsive and gets back to people within 24 hours. That is kind of what I try to do as long as I have my phone or I am not hunting in the woods and then I don’t want to talk to anybody (laughter). I usually try to get back to everybody, but the first night I had over 300 messages when I started responding. I spent like two and a half hours responding, I was back over 300 and then I realized I was missing important things like, ‘Here are your tickets for the Super Bowl. This is what time you have to be there for the shuttle tomorrow.’ Then I realized, ‘OK, I really need to prioritize. Rather than just going in order, I need to sift through these messages and find out what are the things that I have to know for tomorrow, try to get back to those and then get back to everybody else hopefully by the time that I get back to Wisconsin.’ It has certainly been a little bit overwhelming emotionally at times. Walking up on to the stage Friday afternoon for the for the Merlin Olsen Luncheon when they announce us as Hall of Famers and there are like 70 Hall of Famers who are back and they are all in their gold jackets and they announce your name, they show ‘The Knock’ video and all of a sudden you see 80 legends of the game and many of the faces who were guys that you cheered for and that you idolized as a kid, and they are standing up, they are clapping for you and have to walk this walk up onto the stage and you get asked a question, I remember my knees just crumbling and going weak. I was just so overwhelmed with emotion in that moment that I lost like dexterity and the ability to think of what I was trying to say. I probably didn’t say anything that made any sense in that moment. It is one of many overwhelming emotional moments that I had in the last week.”


On how many of his former Browns QBs he keeps in contact with now, referencing spending time with NFL QB Colt McCoy, and how many of them have congratulated him during the past week:

“There are actually about a ton of them who have reached out since the announcement happened on Thursday night. I think that is one of the cool parts of being inducted into Hall of Fame is you start hearing from a lot of guys who maybe you have not heard from in a while, and it triggers a lot of cool memories from your time together – maybe it was not always on the field on Sundays with a win, but it was memories in the locker room, in the weight room or maybe a dinner that you went to with them and their wife. Like with me and Colt, we become such great friends because we are both kind of country boys, we would spend the offseason hunting and fishing together and then our wives became good friends. Him being the backup quarterback for the Cardinals this season, he was like a mile down the road from where we had our rental house last week. My oldest daughter, Logan, turned 10 on Friday, and they threw a birthday party for her because we both have four kids who are pretty similar in age. It was great having the opportunity to share my Hall of Fame moment with not only with my kids, my wife and my family but a lot of people who were there in Arizona who I played with but also people who were just watching back home and being able to make those connections, have them reach out, kind of talk to them, catch up with a lot of those guys and remember some of the more positive memories that we had together as teammates.”


On if anyone stands out or surprised him most from the people who congratulated him during the past week:

“I would say I haven’t talked to (Pro Football Hall of Fame QB) Peyton Manning in a few years, probably since I retired or shortly after, and he sent a congratulations message. We went back and forth a little bit, which was kind of cool, just because I told the ‘poop story’ a bunch of times over the last couple of weeks before I got inducted. That was kind of funny when he reached out because I thought of the story again.”


On Pro Football Hall of Fame T Walter Jones telling him he was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jones being a player he idolized and if he interacted with Jones much prior to that moment:

“‘The Knock’ was really the most [time] we ever spent together. I remember him being on the field when Seattle came to Cleveland [my rookie year]. Actually, the equipment manager (director of equipment operations) Brad Melland had spent a bunch of time in Seattle so he knew Big Walt. I think he knew that I had a man-crush on him and the way he played he was kind of my idol. I remember when I got to the stadium before we played the Seahawks as a rookie, they had printed out a picture of Walter Jones and they put it in my locker. I can’t remember if he wrote something on it pretending to be like Walter or if it was just the picture. I never really had a chance to get to meet him other than saying hi briefly on the field until he came to the house. Then pretty soon, my four-year-old daughter was reading him bedtime stories and wanting to give him some of her stuffed animals (laughter).”


On his goals moving forward after achieving his goal of being a Pro Football Hall of Famer:

“I would say first and foremost, I want to be a great father, a great husband and a great friend to all of the people in my life. That is first and foremost. I think after that, just trying to find purpose in life and trying to be a servant for others, the people in my life who had a big impact on me being where I am right now as a Hall of Fame inductee and then trying to find a way to have some successes and some wins in life and in the business world. More importantly though and more than anything, be present with my family and friends as much as possible. It is one of those things that you have to put to the side a lot when you are focused on being a player to be the best version of yourself for your teammates. You just want to flip those priorities and make sure you can be around as much as you can. I told somebody this offseason, a fellow NFL player we were hanging out and we were talking  about being a father, retiring and things like that – I thought about it a lot because sometimes I am a deep thinker and sometimes too much – and I feel like I said, ‘The scoreboard in fatherhood is a one-to-one ratio of time spent with your kids.’ There is no grading on a curve. ‘You were here for this but not that.’ You never know when those special moments are going to be with your kids that they remember. I had my kids at the Super Bowl in a suite for the Hall of Fame this past weekend. They probably won’t remember one second of it, but you know what? If I go pick them up from school, we drive home and all of the sudden something comes up and we have a meaningful conversation, that might be something that they remember for the rest of their lives. For me, just being there as much as I possibly can because you never know when those moments are going to happen.”


On making a smooth transition to life after the NFL:

“I think what I did when I was playing was try to really watch my teammates and my friends that went through this process when they were a little bit older than me, they decided to retire and they stepped away and tried to learn from their experiences, talked to them and figured out what were the challenges – what were the things that were easy and if there were any strategies that helped them deal with that transition because I don’t care who you are and I don’t care how much success or not success you had in the NFL, when you are done playing, you lose your identity as a football player. You are doing it for a lot of people in their late 20s or early 30s, and you are not a football player anymore. Most people do not lose that identity of who they were as a working person until their 60s and 70s-year old and everybody else in their peer group is doing it at that time. I think one thing that I have learned just watching people is you have to find a purpose; you have to find a passion outside of just friends and family because if you think you are just going to not do things and that is going to give you happiness – ‘I am just going to not work out and not go to meetings and not go to practice,’ if that is going to make you happy maybe for a few months – but leisure time and not working hard, that only gives you a little bit of satisfaction and then eventually you have to find purpose, direction and something that gets you out of bed every day.”


On some of the most memorable moments being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame circle for the first time, in addition to ‘The Knock’ with Jones:

“I think meeting a lot of the other offensive tackles who were in the Hall of Fame. I have known (Pro Football Hall of Fame T) Anthony Munoz for a while but just seeing him again. I had never met (Pro Football Hall of Fame T) Orlando Pace. He was a guy who was one of my heroes growing up so seeing him at the Super Bowl was awesome. I got to take a picture with him and just chat a little bit. It is one of those things that it is really cool once you become a Hall of Famer, even though I don’t have a gold jacket yet, all of those guys knew that I was becoming part of that family. All of a sudden for them, they kind of see you a little bit more as a peer, and they want to accept you in and they want to find out more about your life, who you are and what makes you tick. That was really, really awesome having that opportunity to just spend time with the greats that came before you.”


On if fitting for the gold jacket and ring made reaching the Pro Football Hall of Fame seem more real and if he also was measured for the bust:

“It certainly did make it feel real. I think the bust measurements was probably the moment of the measurement – they call it ‘Sizing Saturday’ – that made it the most real because you sit with a sculpturer who is a world famous sculptor who does a lot of the bust and he has been doing them for a while, and he measures like every little nose hair that you have and the giant ears I have – he is like, “Oh, man. I don’t think we have ever had a measurement that size before (laughter).’ He is taking pictures and then you get a chance to look at some of the work that he has done. I was kind of like a little bit of a history nerd. He is the first master sculptor that I have ever met so I was really interested if he had studied the works of DaVinci and all of the great sculptors from Europe. I was picking his brain like, ‘Hey, have you ever been to Florence? Have you been to Rome? What is the most amazing sculpture that you have ever seen? How did they give you perspective on your own work?’ He probably thought I was a pretty big nerd for asking all of these questions, but I was really fascinated. The process is they take your measurements, they take pictures of your face and then in April they will have a clay mold somewhat carved out and then you fly to his studio in Utah and you sit there for four or five hours and then he kind of finishes the details to make sure that you are happy with what he has done. Then they take that, and I think they move that into bronze somehow.”


On if he has decided who will present him on Pro Football Hall of Fame induction day:

“One of the misses from this past weekend is I really wanted to spend some time talking to the other Hall of Famers and ask them about who did you decide to be your presenter and why, and I forgot. Again, I was a little bit sidetracked. I was sort of in awe of a lot of these guys. I haven’t made a decision, and I haven’t really even spent enough time thinking about it to have narrowed it down. That is definitely on my to-do list.”


On mulling over the number of people who he could potentially select to present him on Pro Football Hall of Fame induction day:

“It is crazy, I haven’t really thought about it all that much. I know for some guys – the few guys that I have talked to about it – it was really obvious because they had one person who was in their life their entire NFL career, whether it be an owner, a coach, sometimes a teammate or a friend, and it was sort of a no-brainer for them. For a guy who had nine offensive coordinators, two owners, six head coaches and like a revolving door of quarterbacks, I have had a lot of people who have touched my life and have been a huge part of this journey for me so I think that makes it a little challenging to kind of narrow it down and figure out who is that one person who I want to make sure is presenting me and that I would be the most excited about having up on stage.”


On joking that each of the 20 starting quarterbacks could say one sentence when presenting him on Pro Football Hall of Fame induction day:

“Somebody told me that Billy Manziel would be a great candidate because certainly the people in Cleveland would love to hear from him (laughter).”


On if his emotions when receiving ‘The Knock’ and learning he was in the Pro Football Hall of Fame matched his expectations for the moment or were more emotional than imagined:

“It was a lot more emotional and overwhelming than I expected because ‘The Knock’ caught me off guard. I wasn’t prepared at all. I assumed wrongly that ‘The Knock’ would come pretty close to the Super Bowl because I figured that they wanted to keep the window of time between telling guys and the actual announcement as short as possible so that it doesn’t leak out. My wife did a great job setting this up. My kids didn’t know. I didn’t know. When it happened, it caught me off guard, and I am glad it happened like that because I think if they would have done it in the old style where they bring you to the Super Bowl, they put you in a hotel and you are sitting there – I felt comfortable with my résumé – I know some guys talk about how nerve-racking it is and things like that, but I felt good about what I had done as an NFL player to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Now, you never know for sure like what is going to happen, but I think if you would have said, ‘Hey, within the next 24 hours they are going to tell you,’ I probably wouldn’t have been as excited or as emotional. The fact that I was caught off guard, Walter Jones was standing at my door, my kids were there and saw him first because they thought that their friends were at the door and then they come running back into the kitchen where my wife and I were standing and my son tells me, ‘Daddy, we made it!’ and instantly, it just knocked me off of my feet emotionally to know that my wildest dreams of playing football and getting into the NFL were never this great and the fact that my idol told my son who told me the great news just made it even better than I could have ever scripted.”


On seeing his kids’ excitement when learning he was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2023 Class:

“That was really cool. I think I have seen it like 100 times, and I still get emotional (chokes up and pauses). Anybody who is a parent, they understand – especially now that I am retired and I spend so much time with them – for them to have emotion and excitement makes it so much more special for me because you try to tell them stuff all day long and they don’t listen to anything (laughter). You are like, ‘Hey, we are going to go back to Cleveland, and they are going to announce Daddy in the Legends Club. That is really cool.’ Then they are like, ‘Yeah, whatever, Dad.’ I am like, ‘Alright, have to find something that is cool.’ ‘Hey, I am on the Titans Games with The Rock. You know Maui? You guys love that [movie Moana].’ They are like, ‘Yeah, we don’t care.’ Then all of a sudden, there was something they get excited about. I think that as a parent kind of made it a little bit overwhelming.”


Closing statement:

“I appreciate you taking a little bit of time with me. It would be improper if I didn’t say it was (850 ESPN analyst and Pro Football Hall of Fame voter) Tony Grossi who said I should have Billy Manziel as my presenter – on Friday he told me that. Shout out to Tony. I know he is probably on the golf course in Arizona still. Thanks, guys. I will hope to see you guys soon.”



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