Feb. 9, former Badger and Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas was officially voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Thomas became just the seventh modern-era offensive tackle in NFL history to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility and the first Hall of Fame member of the Cleveland Browns organization that played in the 21st century.
Thomas was drafted by the Browns with the third overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft. Thomas was an ironman for the Browns organization, and he is now remembered as one of the best offensive linemen of all time and one of the best players in the history of the Cleveland Browns franchise.
Thomas pieced together an astonishing 11-year career with an abundance of honors and record breaking statistics. He was named to the Pro Bowl 10 consecutive years, making him the only offensive lineman in league history to be voted into 10 straight Pro Bowls to start a career. Thomas also boasts eight All-Pro honors, six of which were first team.
Arguably the most impressive accomplishment of Thomas’ career, however, is the fact that he played in 10,363 consecutive snaps — believed to be the longest streak in NFL history. This streak started in his rookie season and lasted all the way until the 2017 season, when he suffered a career-ending knee injury. This record is a marker of Thomas’ reliability, toughness and grit.
Thomas was very active in the Cleveland community as he was a finalist for the 2012 NFL Walter Payton Man of The Year Award. Thomas never missed a game and would play through injuries to be there for his team and endure the adversity of draining, losing seasons.
Thomas joins elite Badger company, becoming just the fifth player from University of Wisconsin to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The last badger to accomplish this feat was Mike Webster, also an offensive lineman, who was inducted in 1997.
Thomas’ achievements throughout his college career were just as, if not more, impressive than his professional career. Having played a full four years in Madison from 2003-2006, Thomas is considered one of the most decorated players in the history of the program. He was the first player in Wisconsin history to take home the Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the best interior lineman in the country each year.
Thomas’ resumé also includes three All Big-Ten selections, two consensus first team honors and an unanimous First Team All American selection in 2006. The Badgers were a very competitive team in all four years of Thomas’ career, having finished ranked in the top 20 in his last three seasons and appearing in a bowl game in all four, most notably the Capital One Bowl victory over the Auburn Tigers to cap off his career.
Thomas is just one of many Badgers from the last 20 years to have remarkable careers at the professional level. As former Badgers J.J. Watt, T.J. Watt and Russell Wilson continue to build on to their resumés and impressive careers, it is very possible some, if not all, of these former Badgers could join Joe Thomas in the Hall of Fame sometime in the near future.