NFL Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas is the standard by which all modern day running backs are judged. The league MVP in 1991, Thomas ushered in a shift from large, plodding, power backs, to the dual purpose threats common in today’s game.
Thomas led the NFL in yards from scrimmage four seasons in a row (1989-1992) and is the only player in the history of the NFL to accomplish that feat.
“Thurmal” recently presented his high school with a Wilson Golden Football, an initiative launched by Old Spice and the NFL to recognize high schools that have produced a player or coach that participated in a Super Bowl. We spoke to Thomas at the conclusion of the ceremony, and here are five quotes from the Buffalo Bills all-time leading rusher.
On his relationship with former college teammate Barry Sanders:
“It’s funny because obviously I was at Oklahoma State a couple of years before Barry and then he got there, and we became really good friends. We played the same position and then I leave, I get drafted by Buffalo, he stays an extra year, wins a Heisman, and then he gets drafted by the Detroit Lions which is not too far away from Buffalo.
“All of those years we became, and still remain to this day, really good friend. He is a very special guy to me and every time I talk about him, I always bring up the fact that he is the greatest running back to ever play the game. To be that close, and to be a part of his career, to be a part of his life, it really means a lot to both of us and we remain close friends throughout the years.”
On the hardest hitter he ever faced:
“That guy would definitely be Ronnie Lott. He was a beast. I only played against Ronnie probably 10-12 times, but when we would flip on the tape and look at what was going on, that was a guy that I always said, ‘Man, I don’t want to be on any highlight films of Ronnie Lott.’ He was a guy that, I wasn’t afraid of, but I was always aware of where he was on the field.
“With that being said, the scariest guy that I ever played was Lawrence Taylor. I only played against Lawrence maybe 4-5 times, but it’s one of those deals where you walk into the meeting room morning, and you say, “OK, where is #56?” Those two guys right there, loved to compete against them, but really hated to play against them.”
On what made Lott and Taylor so good:
“I don’t know if it was a fire inside of them. I just think they were two very smart, intelligent football players. They could sniff out a play before the play even happened. That’s how high their IQ was. Ronnie Lott always put himself into position where he didn’t have to run 20-30 yards across the field to make an interception; he would already be in position. The intelligence, the IQ of those two guys, really set them apart.”
On former Bills’ head coach Marv Levy:
“Him being a history buff, and an English major in college, all of the things that he said about football were related to history and battle. And, that was the kind of guy he was as a coach. Even though he was the head coach, he wanted to know about your family. ‘How’s your wife, how’s your kids?’, that sort of thing. And he let us become men; to try and be the best football players on and off the field we could possibly be. I still love him to death, he’s one of those guys that you always talk to, that you always check up on. He’s 91-years-old right now, and he still runs about 3 to 4 miles a day! That’s inspiration right there!”
On Kobe Bryant’s retirement announcement and his own retirement:
“You get to that point where you know you can’t do it anymore and obviously that is what Kobe was thinking, too. The last couple of years he’s been injured and just realized his body couldn’t do it. That’s how athletes are, and that’s how I was. I figured, I had played 13 years and when I tore my knee up in 2000, I was ready to go – I wasn’t going to be one of those athletes that hangs on for a number of years and not be able to perform the way I wanted to perform.
“To me, I still had a life to live, and I wanted to be able to walk. At the time I hurt my knee, I was 34-years-old and ready to go. I knew what I had in store for me. I’ve got a beautiful wife of 28 years and four lovely kids, so I wanted to spend the rest of my life with them and be able to do things with them. I knew that day would come, so I prepared myself for it and that made it a lot easier.”
As the official deodorant and body wash of the NFL, Old Spice is teaming with the league to host visits as part of the Super Bowl High School Honor Roll in celebration of schools that produced Super Bowl players and coaches.
The NFL Foundation will provide the schools with a new character education curriculum and the opportunity to apply for grants of up to $5,000 to help support and grow their football programs. The NFL Foundation has invested $1 million towards the campaign.