So Joe Thomas isn't attending the NFL Draft this weekend because he would rather go fishing with his dad. It's an interesting choice, but it just further shows the type of person Thomas is.
In light of all the player misconduct problems NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been dealing with as of late, having a player of Thomas' character to step into the league has to be comforting. Although Goodell would probably prefer to have Thomas in person when his name is called Saturday, he should be ecstatic with the former Wisconsin left tackle's decision.
Who really cares if someone goes to New York for the draft, simply to walk on stage and wear the team's colors for the first time? It's all just for show. Thomas said draft day isn't as important as the day after, and he's right.
But whatever team selects Thomas — be it the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals or whoever — won't only get a class-act person, it will also have a great player on its hands.
While the skilled positions of quarterback, running back and wide receiver receive all the hype, the left tackle position is one of the most important positions in football. And Thomas is one of the best.
If Thomas is taken with the No. 2 overall pick, he would tie Pat Harder and Alan Ameche as the highest-selected player in UW history. Yet there's no doubting the potential Thomas has to be the most successful Badger player in the pros.
Since 2000, Wisconsin has had a number of players selected in the first round, former Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne being the highest at 11th overall. However, no Badger player has found great success recently.
Dayne, along with Jamar Fletcher and Michael Bennett, has found trouble catching a steady role with one team. Chris McIntosh and Wendell Bryant are no longer in the league, and Erasmus James is already injury prone.
Lee Evans, by far, is the most successful Wisconsin player taken in the first round. In three seasons, Evans has averaged 59 receptions and eight touchdowns each year and seems well on his way to Pro Bowl honors.
While Thomas won't be able to compile big numbers like Evans being an offensive lineman and all, he could be just as good, if not better.
In Thomas' three seasons as a regular starter at Wisconsin, he helped three different running backs (Anthony Davis, Brian Calhoun and P.J. Hill) rush for 1,000 yards. At 6 feet 6 inches tall, 311 pounds, he is one of the most intimidating linemen out there, and he is still quite athletic.
More than anything else, though, is the way in which Thomas has helped his team. As a freshman in 2003, he played as a blocking tight end and helped on defense in the Music City Bowl. Thereafter, he started the rest of his career at left tackle, but in 2005, he offered to help on defense once again as UW was dealing with injuries on the defensive line.
In the Badgers' first Capital One Bowl victory, Thomas played on both sides of the ball, and willingly. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL while chipping in on defense, but afterward he said that just made his decision to stay at UW for his senior season that much easier.
Despite speculation about a setback, Thomas worked hard in rehab over the offseason and won the Outland Trophy — the Heisman for offensive linemen.
It just goes to show the type of person Thomas is — that he will give anything and everything to his team and not complain one bit about it.
Thomas' decision to go fishing with his father is typical of an Average Joe, even if Goodell and Badger fans would love to see him in New York sporting a brand new NFL cap. All Thomas is worried about is the bigger picture, a rarity in professional sports today with the likes of Chris Henry and Pacman Jones trying to make it rain right away. While Thomas will still get his TV time Saturday with a camera mounted to his boat, there's no worry he will represent both Wisconsin and the NFL in the best possible way right after the draft.
Michael is a senior double majoring in journalism and communication arts. He's holding out hope that Thomas is selected fifth overall by the Arizona Cardinals. Send in your mock draft to [email protected]