|NFL DRAFT: Thomas' decision to shun spotlight to fish no surprise|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 28 April 2007 10:35|
He made a catch, had a few laughs and shared old stories with his dad and a close friend.
Oh, he also became a multimillionaire after being selected No. 3 in Saturday's NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns, with a camera crew in tow to record the moment for posterity.
``It was about as normal as a fishing trip you could have under these circumstances,'' he said with a smile.
So, it was a little out of the ordinary, when the 6-foot-6, 311-pound Thomas learned he would be the Browns' new left tackle through the satellite radio on Dan Fox's charter fishing vessel, the Foxy Lady.
Thomas' father, Eric, said it would be easy to adjust to Cleveland. They loved the city after visiting it when the Wisconsin Badgers opened last season playing Bowling Green in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The hardest part? When the NFL called and requested them to come to New York with the other projected top picks.
``We had to tell them that we had made plans and we didn't know they were going to invite us,'' the elder Thomas said. ``We really want to follow through with the big plans we had for this day.''
Plus Thomas and his family already visited New York as part of the awards circuit after Wisconsin finished its season with a victory in the Capital One Bowl to end up 12-1.
``We had just recently been to New York and had a great time,'' Eric Thomas said. ``But the opportunity to go fishing isn't going to come around again (often) with Joe's life changing dramatically. He's got a wedding planned this summer. He's got a full-time job now.''
So the Thomases stuck with their plans, getting up at dawn to fish for six hours on one of the first sun-splashed spring days in this sleepy port town of about 11,000, 25 miles north of Milwaukee.
And after some slightly successful fishing, their minds finally began to drift toward Joe's future in the league just before the draft began. Joe Thomas knew all along he was in the perfect spot.
``I didn't want to involve myself in all the craziness that goes on (with the draft). I knew it was going to be an exciting enough time where I didn't need to go to New York,'' Thomas said.
The draft became a little more real when pal Joe Panos, who played in the NFL in Philadelphia and Buffalo after being a stalwart on Wisconsin's 1993 Rose Bowl team, began talking with agent Eric Metz. Metz was sitting with his client, top pick JaMarcus Russell, as they both tried to kill time.
About 30 minutes later, Panos' hunch about where Thomas would go came to fruition.
``I called Joe last night and we were talking and I flat out told him, 'I have a feeling Cleveland's going to take you because they need a tackle bad, and I really hope you go at three, because you're perfect for the city, Midwestern guy, blue collar guy, blue collar fans, rabid fans just like the Badgers.'''
Some of those rabid Badgers fans showed up as well. Larry Moon had just docked his boat, the Luna Sea, before Thomas was scheduled to return to the marina, which caused an initial stir amid about 50 onlookers.
One passerby said, ``Why would everyone gather for some football player?''
``He's not the typical athlete,'' Moon quickly replied. ``He's a really nice guy.''
And Thomas took the time to sign autographs for everyone who waited more than an hour to congratulate him. He also said he slept great on Friday night, only worrying about the fish.
He caught one, but he was one-upped by Panos, who caught two, including the largest - a 14-pound brown trout.
``Now maybe he can finally pay me the $20 he owes me,'' joked Panos, who watched Thomas pose proudly with the fish Panos caught. ``Hey, it's Joe Thomas' day.''